Friday, April 27, 2007

National Poetry Month & my slight return #2

I find myself enjoying this random opening up of a book of poetry and finding a treasure. Actually this time I was looking for a poem by Lorna Dee Cervantes (OK, this is Cervantes Univ. of Colorado page, but I so enjoy her multimedia homepage), but I found this poem by the late Stanley Kunitz (1905 - 2006) instead...

Although I don't yet see "the milestones dwindlingtoward the horizon," the poem spoke to me with its embrace of a full life already lived and a joyful openess to what is yet to come, so here 'tis:


The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

reprinted in Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft by Bill Moyers (New York: Perennial/HarperCollins, 1999)

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