Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Two Poems


I Met Elizabeth Bishop's Moose

I met that moose! Or one of its kind, 
Though hers came wreathed in dignity, whereas mine
   -- though it too emerged
 From the New England woods --
was otherwise quite different
 it bolted out of
Someplace in New Hampshire and I
Was in a small blue car and talking
With a friend spilling
Half a remaining coffee cup and I had to
Spin the wheel and the tires and go
Into the oncoming lane when I
Saw it come out of the woods galloping fast
Right across our path 
  and, isn’t it amazing? I
Know that we would have died
Give or take a couple feet – me! A rare privilege in my 
Quiet life
To nearly die – an 
Unexpected source of interest, and my
Friend tells me that first I cried 
“Jesus Christ!” not expecting
Much aid from that quarter –more a kind 
Of final imprecation in case there was any line 
Left on my ledger
Counting against my damnation, I had
To be clear on whose side 
I would stand at the final day, or maybe it was 
A refusal to hedge any bets, and that a saving and forgiving God, if any such there be, 
would have to take me unrepentant, hating Him, loving me – and

Then I said something else I said – but wait,
Let me mention first that my
Friend and I
  Had been talking all through Vermont about 
The moose we hadn’t seen 
    and what
  Might or might not happen should one
Appear before our windscreen 
What I said to my friend just then
In that less than half one second, I said:

  “It’s actually happening!”

It being the much-discussed moose splatter, and I suppose
  That is what death will be like when it comes, for real, 
 “It’s actually happening!” I am 

reminded of three times in my life – one that came
  On a hot afternoon, dri-
ving down a crowded road, 
and nearing a red light; another was in bed one night; 
and a final
in the shower, which I was taking late – 

When it suddenly seemed to come plain to me 
  That death would cancel everything out 
    when it came
  And that everything that Qoholeth said,
  Had everything up on every 
Other worldview, and that
Proposals having to do 
With the importance of, say, “good deeds living after one” (assuming I've done any)
Were but a wispy flower in the wind, when one
Considered that one wouldn’t be there
To ken whether they were living on or not, and for 
The rest of the theories (personal immortality, e.g.), they simply are not
  “Even their memories are lost to them!”

Having got that far, I caught 
An arid smell in my throat, I thought
That I would have to find a way out
– but see
There never is a means 
   of escape from under truths
Once seen – why should there be? –
But then –

nothing came
  Along at that or any other point to say
 That the good deeds living on and such,
Was any less real either, it grew
None the less true
For my being present there or not –
the question that my Qoholeth moment, I guess, forgot
or failed to answer was 
Why should one be there
Or why should one care
When to the past one grants one’s non-existence,
It seems only fair
That the future one’s inestimable presence 
One will also one day spare

And wasn’t there 
     in that cry –
  “It’s actually happening!” something more than mere
Unpunctuated fear? Was there not
As well a spot
Of rushing familiarity? That thing
So long imagined, that object of our
Most flattering 
and unfaltering curiosity – in one’s grasp at last, je t’aime!
Ah, so this is what it’s like! one will think. And seeing that
Everything else in life has always been 
so much more possible in the doing than in the fearing – one feels
One will slip into non-being so gratefully knowing
That the being was real; and so is the going

To where and what one already was – a dot
Of uncomprehending miles with no 
Way of knowing why or where
Or reason for its going there, or way
Of asking any such questions.

Anyway, I guess you could say,
I met that moose.


When I heard about the sister who had died
In the desert and whose brother had tried
Not to leave her but had been
Deported back to Mexico and who cried
Out that he would one day come back to find
Her body but he couldn’t because he was on the wrong
Border side, I think I filed 
It away in my mind, under closing arguments for use
In partisan debate until I was dri-
ving in my car and heard
A lot of words and talking and I
Noticed the rain and couldn’t 
Understand and in my
Muscles there was a kind
Of limpness and in my eyes
-- I
Turned on and off the radio thinking
“What is wrong with me tonight?” and then I realized

That this is what is known as an emotional response and I

Felt a cough of sobs be released, almost gratefully,
Through my nose and stings 
In both my eyes and I 
Had a sense I can scarce describe
A glimpse of
The people who already died and who
I will never no matter how long I live 
Live beside

And how anything one could do from now
Could not bring back the days
Of, let’s say, the Postville raid,
Or any others in which
One might have played 
A different part from the one
one did – which was none –
not even that of the disapproving observer

And maybe one can make, can do one’s part for,
A different future, and one more kind, 
but it will be for oneself, and not the one
For whom they did not come in time. 

No comments:

Post a Comment