Monday, July 24, 2017

Variations on a Theme by Ammons

Desert flowers, voiced by the wind, their spiked heads
and open blooms lean my way, ever so gently, as if afraid
but the wind pulls them away like a father
wrests wandering eyes from a rough-figured stranger.

The grasses, on the other hand, tune to much subtler
perturbations, above the fears and desires in closeness,
afraid only of missing it, the hidden inculcation.

The wind itself is left with the dead stalks
to state its case, for shivering and coming close,
how hard it is to flow, it stiffly asserts,
and the yellow flowers at the root of these dead
merely watch, in a kind of awe, though
all the wind can say to the living is "Don't be so lazy,
move!" (to the eucalyptus), and "Shake your pretty
tambourine in our choir" (to the bougainvillea).

The grasses feel it all but cannot say,
relying on the pink bloom nested in their bed
to offer a flicker at meaning.
And we, we go through their turnstiles,
twirling their ravishing plumage in the light
as their brothers and sisters whisper in the distant field.
They turn their weary fingers with such hard-earned purpose,
for they can hold so still, for as long as it takes
Herr Wind to summon its presence,

Which sends the mustard to pray, its bobbing bonnets
oscillating at the sky, and makes the ivy
fan the trees, throbbing with honoring, tells the new
oak shoots to reach beyond the who, what, where
they are in the soft persuasions of its breeze,

Yet the honeysuckle struggles, against the reminder
that summer's fat stillness will not be long, it
flails and gesticulates, thinking the recoil is who he is,
but calm returns soon enough, and quiet nodding, the lightest
breeze caresses it like a bee hugs a strand of blossom,

And the cool current flows like a mountain stream,
effortless as the day, and silent except for the sighs
up and down the hillsides, of those who wait for it,
as for a cloud to lift from the sea over a distant golden island.

"This distinction," the wind says, motioning all around, "has no
relevance, except as the parts are forced into a mouth to sing
what they are, that is, not what I am, who attempts to be their
king. A king? As if the symphony I orchestrate is in my name,
as if my nurturing, invisible, has a result that redounds to my
credit — no, my power is in the withholding, creating time
the curse in the waiting."

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