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Two Poems


I know if I find you I will have to leave the earth
and go on out
  over the sea marshes and the brant in bays
and over the hills of tall hickory
and over the crater lakes and canyons
and on up through the spheres of diminishing air
past the blackset noctilucent clouds
          where one wants to stop and look
way past all the light diffusions and bombardments
up farther than the loss of sight
  into the unseasonal undifferentiated empty stark

And I know if I find you I will have to stay with the earth
inspecting with thin tools and ground eyes
trusting the microvilli sporangia and simplest
and praying for a nerve cell
with all the soul of my chemical reactions
and going right on down where the eye sees only traces

You are everywhere partial and entire
You are on the inside of everything and on the outside

I walk down the path down the hill where the sweetgum
has begun to ooze spring sap at the cut
and I see how the bark cracks and winds like no other bark
chasmal to my ant-soul running up and down
and if I find you I must go out deep into your
  far resolutions
and if I find you I must stay here with the separate leaves

The Ridge Farm (excerpt)

The lean, far-reaching, hung-over sway
of the cedars this morning!
vexed by the wind and working tight

but the snow's packed in, wet-set,
and puffed solid: the cedars nod to
an average under gusts and blusters:

yesterday afternoon cleared the
sunset side of trees, the hemlocks
especially, limbering loose, but
the morning side, the lee, sunless
again today, overbalances:

the grackles form long strings
of trying to sit still; they weight
down the wagging branchwork snow stuck
branch to branch, tree to shrub,
imposing weeds
last night, the wind clunked
the icy heads of shrubs
against the house—
long night of chunk-money spilling
a poet hands me his poem and says,
this is not my true voice, only a
line or so:
good, I say, but he is
having found a self, if still reticent,
in himself he likes or would like to like:
but is his true
voice more interesting
than the one in the poem and, anyway,
isn't the one in the poem, if untrue,
truly untrue:
I know what he means:
he wants to write by the voice, to
separate out the distinctive
in himself, a distinctive, and write to it:
that is not the way, the way
is to say what you have to say
and let the voice find itself
assimilated from the many tones and sources, its
predominant and subsidiary motions
not cut away from the gatherings:
but that is passive, he says:
no, I retort (for effect), it is passive
to do the bidding of the voice you have
imagined formed: freedom engages,
or chooses not to, what in the world is
to be engaged
if nature could speak
would it have something
to say right where it says nothing:
that is, be like me, reticent,
patient, waiting and slowly the
progressions will find progressive gears
(even now backsteppings are being wound
forward) and the wind seek key other
than the eaves-key: nature would say,
be still, that is to say, indifferent
like me, only to say so would
motion difference:
probably this is why nature says nothing—
it has nothing to say
knowledge, perception, this action
is so endless it might well be
avoided, as one does not care to take
down just because it happens what happens, the play
of light on an inlet, bay, sea:

worked so far in, knowledge mingles
with its source
so as to give up reefs, shoals, shores
of resistance, to unwind
the embracing curvatures of line,
shelf, lagoon

recalcitrance, fluency: these:
too far with one and the density
darkens, the mix slows, and bound
up with hindrance, unyielding, stops:
too far with the other and the bright
spiel of light spins substanceless
descriptions of motion—

always to be held free this way,
staggering, jouncing, testing the
middle mix,
the rigid line of the free and easy
there is no tedium, apparently,
to mere things in eternity: sunset,
now underway with rosy ruffles,
deep glows becoming space effects,
all that, so fresh and vanishing,
so old, the sun itself simultaneously
setting and rising continuously
on this or that sea or mountain range,
gorilla troop or small nation: Lord
God, I cry out (hear me), hear us:
but the Lord God changes before our minds
and becomes a listening device
four warps and a reach (woof) deep into
space: we cry out, bending an umbrella
of focus His way to penetrate
nothingness, signals, arbitrary, noticeable, intelligible
some branches, the
birch's, end bushy
but the squirrel,
no aerial rail to catch, will
leap into the vague
net and, bounding, find
route to hard wood
we went for a raw walk in the
high middling of the afternoon, the
wind getting into and up our coats
and even gently into our pants:
nevertheless, we would not be daunted,
the rain also, though sparsely and
smallishly, prickling us, it being
forced forward stingingly by the gusts:
the evergreens and clouds rolled:
we heard the tough, rattling burr of
highwind in the hardwoods and the softer muffle
of cedar boughs: we noticed the
forsythia standing half-out: we
noticed the honeysucklebushes filled
with tiny green lotus temples where last
week ice had hung cold-dry or rattled loose:
Bernie said he wasn't much interested
in nature but if we didn't have it we'd have to
think of something to take its place
cauliflowers are either real or
illusory, ditchbanks shed inward into their
courses old cattail fuzz, fern
fiddleheads, sporophyte flimsy either
appearance or verifiability:
gravy runs down the chin and forms
brothy drops that can't or can favor stain:
why test mind on the reality stone:
nothing will be determined but that
mind, too, terribly flows and stalls, holds
and gives way: if you don't
eat the imaginary potato (grown in an
imaginary field, baked in in imaginary
oven) your real capacity
to imagine illusion lessens:

hug thighs to thighs, sit broken with clarity
of delight at children
in the early afternoon sun, hold
on to some specification of curvature
the "flavor" of a mind that once informed
a love face, let nothing vanish that has not
proved out a firm roundaway

miss the kingdom of feelings
or find it too much and it is
indifferent who made the world or what
it was made of, stone or vision


A. R. Ammons

The Complete Poems of A. R. Ammons
W. W. Norton

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