Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From The Far Field

Lately I've been carrying around a copy of The Far Field by Theodore Roethke (Doubleday & Company, 1964) which won a posthumous National Book Award, Roethke's second. Theodore Roethke was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan (his family was, of course, in the greenhouse business) and many of his poems--even those written late in life--carry the unmistakable stamp of his early years in the Upper Great Lakes.

One of my favorites:

In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear,
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
and one is One, free in the tearing wind.


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