Friday, March 2, 2012

"The brittle things of March"

The forecast of bad weather held us back from making a trip to the east today; after last year's hail storm (with larger-than-golf-ball-sized hail), I am more cautious. Nothing much has happened yet, but nonetheless--the day has been good for looking back over some forgotten poems.

A friend recently remarked that it's difficult to understand poetry without knowing the poet; I argued that this is not the case, and that in a good poem, there are many things to grasp hold of, make meaning from.

I first read Joseph Enzweiler's A Curb in Eden almost eight years ago--before I understood the work of a farmer, or began listening to the land in the same way that he does in his poems. Reading the poems now, I know that the wind and the mud aren't abstractions. However, there is still much in this simple poem that is foreign to me--and maybe this very fact is part of the reason for my enjoyment (of any poem).

The Wind

I've been standing here all my life
by the road that day in March
and never knew till now.
Phone lines hold their breath.
Above the neighborhood
a hammer is lifted.
Swifts fall silent in the chimney.
Children on the lawn
are blurred, their faces
delicate as cups.
In the market aisle
a secret waits half-told.
A doorknob turns.
Cars intent on evening
as supper cooks.
Watch hands.
The smell of bread.

As the bus pulls away
in a black roar of diesel,
from its window
you smile at me and wave.
We are fifteen.
My face is cold.
The mud smells warm
with spring and rotten grass.
Four o'clock.
The potholes shiver with rain.

In glass dark and shifting,
clouds rush across your face
like faraway countries
taking you, faster now
until you are dust,
a metal frame of sky.

I never heard the hammer fall,
a garage door shut, the eyes
complete their journeys.
I thought I could always find you there
in the same green coat,
though it's we who are the wind.

I turned home past the locust trees
through the broken gate.
Our steel fence hissed in vines,
sun glazed the pear tree.
The brittle things of March
filled me, and the mud
on my shoes felt light.

That night at supper my family
ate the same in their same chairs.
But for me the fish was beautiful
and sweet  opened with my fork.
They could not see.
I never spoke, though my blood
was curving to the sky.

No comments: