On Forgetting The Name Of A Small Plant
A grace, a slightness, a green twist
Lightly angled from left to right,
A trace of utterness, a pendulous
White streak, God help me, what flower hangs
Down so upon its own ascension? You.
Can I forget your name and still know mine?
The soft interrogation of your tendril speaks
To me, yet does not speak your name,
And so I leave it where I must,
Known so clearly long ago,
To-day not clearly lost,
A tassel seeded in my mind,
A tangle where you taper most.
How can so much that's feminine and Greek
Take off and leave no evidence behind?
Grand botany, old friend,
In some small corner of your discipline
Permit me room and make it bright
And wish me luck,
That I may spring upon the fugitive
In the last syllable of her flight.
A state of light on winter boughs,
A hover of lilac on the tree,
A grove asleep in amethyst,
Drive terror from mortality.
If dying could be done like this,
A dreaming upright for a spell,
While inner secrets are awake
Planning enormous miracle,
If death were done like orchards,
Flower folded, never lost,
It would be worth the anguish,
It would be worth the frost.
To Be In Rain
The lush and lull of now the lapsing rain
The beautiful drench and flood is all about
On branch and sparkled sprawl of dripping bough
And diamond dangle slipping from the twigs,
And things of slumbered ivory huddled under
Break up from sleeping with a tender prong.
Unhushable and quiet drills the rain,
Each pointed spangle spats and pushes down
Into the little vats where lilies brew,
Into the silver cellars of the slug,
Between the jointed pillars, sheen and clean,
That lift the grass above the tremulous ant.
With shift, twist, twirl and peck of pebble under
The liquid fern, now dips the pale and spinning tip
Of rain, rain, rain into the swelling earth,
And here beneath the poise and strip
Of tactile waters tapping to get in,
The mind, the mortal soil gone bleak and sere
Goes green, puts up a candid flower, a sleek
Sweet bud, first bud, the firstling crisp and sheer.
The mild, the solid sound, American
Of lawnmowers roving on a grassy day
Is a mellow clatter, it is not only
A twist of blade laying the lawn away.
It is the audible summer in the states,
When hayfields murmur in the lovely grain,
And bees shoot in their tongues after the honey
As clovers hum and rock under the strain.
Now over all the land the wheat is blond,
It hisses and is quiet on its roots
As wind and windless happen to a place
And heat strikes home into the twinkling fruits.
The green blood of the leaves is duller now,
It is a foliage in her elegies;
From the great barns crawl out the loud machines
And the deep harvest lapses under these.
Yours and a native song let make, O blade,
Before the bough is blank and the cricket dead,
About my country's grass and the white crops,
How you possess them fragrant and to bed.
Smith Brothers' Lumber Shed
Here in the shadow of the Smiths, my forest,
The flower of Oregon is straight and dead,
The pine that whistled and the cedar's harp,
A silent lumber counted in a shed.
So many miles, so many winds between
This corner south, your sable forest north,
Where loud you rolled your branches on the storm,
Slow begot new green, slow brought it forth.
O Mr. Smith, O Oregon, I saw
All that you both possess under one shed,
The earth profoundly holding up her trees,
And every man, a home upon his head.
And more, believe, I saw and counted most
The northern stars still trembling through the branch
And far below, the pale glass of a flower,
And I forebore to pick it up so blanche.
It is for Mr. Smith, he must be laid
Sometimes limpid among lengths of lumber,
Heaving his eye up to remembered shade,
Hearing the lovely voice of living timber,
And see -- it's natural, not as a Smith possessed --
His fir-trees drinking at the snow's fine breast.
White Magnolia Blossom
The rolling, staggering bee, the honey-fronted,
Shoves his gypsy face into the pollen,
Thrusts and wallows with delight unblunted
While over him the yellow snow has fallen
And under him the deeply shaken stamens
Tremble. Tumult, O bee -- in her cool tower
Sleeps perfection that no fire can waken,
Slumbers, alaska-white, who said a flower,
Who said a more than flower, who can discern
What lantern-like and secret single
Word is bright enough for her but will not burn,
What sound is pure enough to hold and mingle
With this unseizable, impending doom --
To fall unfathomably into beauty's bloom?
The sun gazed hot on her single hip,
The doe left on it a crescent scar,
And valley winds, the boisterers,
Swung the bough from under my lady pear.
Lust of bee and sweat of honey,
Hunger and merry-making come to an end,
Diligence of summer lies at rest,
And the light goes out in my darkening hand.
Prayer For This Day
Here, west of winter, lies the ample flower
Along a bough not builded on by snow.
Now earth conceives the bridal and the bower.
Now what was rain is vistas in a row
Of spring, or miles of water knocking upon stone.
The random green heals over without flaw,
Hills heave their smoothness to the midmost sun.
Oh, what are we to say that worlds are lost?
Or what bears heaviest on the heart almost?
Still to a century superb for death
The emerald shrub again, the rose undwindled:
Still quail are whistling with a bubble's breath
And lean and tender lilies taper still:
Still satin moths at night with great eyes kindled
Throb into flame. If there is time to will
Prayer from a heart too long by reason fondled,
Then here where flinty branches loosen into white,
Here at the balmy side of spring's re-birth
Kneel down. We ask no vision, no heavenly light,
But simple faith, like faith of grass, in earth,
And seed's old dream against the night, the night.
Near the old woods where little birds swell
With delicious melody
You had a garden, love,
Beautiful with care of elegant produce,
Watered, hoed, and weeded straight to me.
This year thistles are in your garden
And for your sake I hack thistles,
Weeds of dread, a glass army, an ugly
Multitude of assassins and spies.
For your sake I invade the invader.
My hoe is made for a lady, my gloves
Are pretty and no good. I fight. I meet
The immortal. A thistle slain is good as
Alive and ready to shoot, while ever
The silver spies of floating seed
Scatter abomination for a future day
And torment for the human soul that trembles
In the presence of a weed.
And what do I think of most,
A thirsty fool among thistles growing old
And brittle among thistles all the way?
I think of your smile. It was like a clear lotion,
A mysterious zestful refresher.
I think of your smile.
It's a mean year for thistles,
It's a hard year for love.
Had I the use of thought equivalent
To moist hallucination of a flute
I could be saying how
A certain music in my woods has driven
A certain female fern to tear
In panic from her good black root.
But no transparency of clear intent
I only guessed at what the singer meant
That hour I heard his intervals prolong
Beyond security of common song
Into a raving sweetness coming closer,
While the lyric creature
Was still remote,
Since thrush may have a mile of music
In one inch of throat.
Black Arum (Dracunculus vulgaris)
That you should smell of carrion
And be beloved as filth
By flies, the soft small vultures murmurous
About your spathe,
Is destiny not fit for flower,
Although you be corruption's flower of state.
I, for one, pause to admire
And call you beautiful, as foul as sable
And, mused upon by your hypnotic hue
I do forget the pure, the singular, the mountain lily
White Shasta's little nymph, and red pluck of the rose,
For one whom evil raised with darkest care
Out of time's tropics, a hazard to the soul.
Offended heart, do not believe this flower,
This floral lie,
Even its awful fragrance, that of death,
His flower indeed, and his profane ideal,
With a like will to wither
As the lovely and the real.
To A Small Plant Of The High Sierras
Flower too small to gather,
Yet large in your estate
Of mountain and vast weather,
Green gem upon cold breast
Of bare sublimity,
Scarcely have I pressed
-- Sweet infant, nursed on snow --
where you lie serene,
And chasm faints below.
All thought of you is blent
With azure sunlight, granite,
And huge, clear firmament,
Great moss, great innocent at ease
Upon Sierra's awful knee,
What tenderness you lend to these
Monuments and mysteries,
With delicate sod and bright
What loving flourishes you add
To hard works of the infinite,
And, to much awe, delight.
Pure Sum (Yosemite)
To gather wild azalea,
If you can bear to break,
Is laying by a treasure
For your heart's sake.
First the frugal mind
Numbers the pallid loss
Of petal and petal
Falling dark upon the moss,
But ever the heart grows richer
In contentment from that hour,
Compounded on the single
White unit of a flower.
When light revolves about the given green
And so makes vernal lustre,
Freesia on a line oblique
Divides her ivory cluster.
(All men adore the spring.)
The sap that spirals in the steady bough,
The emerald prism splitting on the tree,
The soft andante bird now faster singing
Move all to one velocity.
Observe the holy cypher of the spring
Exact and secret on each tattooed flower,
And hear the meadow lark capsized with music,
Toppling loud into the transparent hour.
All men adore the spring,
Even a plain leaf trinketed with rain,
Even the tree toad's cabalistic murmur,
Equation between mystery and disdain,
Even the swaggering dot on the beetle's wing,
The period that puts no end to prodigies
Of heavenly matter, on and on
Made ponderable and real to mortal eyes.
Over the flower-striped desert
Walk when it is spring,
See the mountains great with snow,
Hear the round lark sing.
Go lightly in a million flowers,
Pollen will reveal
Every greedy runner
By his golden heel.
These are enchanted acres, go
Lightly. You have found
A place where rainbows fall to earth
And grow more vivid on the ground.
Praise For A Valley Weed
(Beside the Southern Pacific tracks)
Where dusts of old departures blind the heart
And a white face forever flits
Forward down a perishing view,
Here stands a plant, frail scaffold of great nature,
Abatus and gloriosus, you,
The pillar in our bones, no less,
And trodden pith of spirit. Lacking your kind,
Adsurgens, trivialis, structural weed,
These perfect wheels, these lords of travellers, indeed,
Had never rolled out of that hot oblivion
Where, ages gone, life's shanty rocked forlorn
And barely stood,
While God without end shot slowly past.
Lacking your will to rise, your poise to fall
As deepening loam upon a shabby star,
What end save sterile lime would earth have known,
What fruitful forest giving lounge and food,
Callicarpus, ambrosioides all,
What golden victuals or what amethyst vine
Would fill this valley of the San Joaquin
And bask along the brilliant wake of speed
Where fuels and men and metals make such haste?
Pusillus and chrysophyllus, little weed.
Whose smile would deck these corridors of arrival,
Whose feet make merry to descend at home
As day, with a drag of rusty stars, turns west?
Had you not given soil for food for hunger
What language had grown tongue to test
The lilt of its own seed
In all the mumbling ages of your earthward rise
-- Lucidus ever in humilities --
Not these, the hardy, classic two, deciduous of death,
Still budding with your name and honoring your deed,
Petrophilus, oliganthus and sanctorus
and fraternal weed.
On A Hill
I was walking up the firebreak, Holly's hill,
I was setting my toes hard on the gritty ground
Where earth cracks early to the little fists
Of peony, phacelia and horehound.
The air hung clear. Each mountain was there.
Nothing from nature took one inch, one green.
Spring was swelling in the western light
That shown upon itself with a twin sheen.
Up from the river came the barest rush
Of water running dark under the lather,
While sumac, toyon, fern, a hundred more
And I stood rooted in a holy weather.
And suddenly I found myself like this,
A thing at ease from heart to cuticle
Remade to common radiance on the hill,
Dark core of canyon rock and dreamy particle.
Not for my sake, whose sake is not enough,
Would I inscribe a meaning on sublime
To make it last beyond its chance of awe,
Unnatural in the decency of time.
Better to be consumed in what I saw,
Utterly taken and left small and still,
A grain of sensibility in native light,
Barely lodged upon a granite hill.
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