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Cream of crab soup
Salt and pepper calimari
How I survived The Blizzard of 2010

Yes, I could offer many haiku detailing UD‘s snowed-in week here at the Legacy Hotel in ‘thesda (She was just interviewed by the George Washington University newspaper, The Hatchet, which is doing a feature on “stranded professors.”), but I think I’ll stop with one, and turn instead to the consideration of a very fine poem about snow, Theodore Roethke’s The Far Field. It’s a bit long, so let’s take it section by section.

***************************

I

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.

*************************

The initial stanza tells us we’ve got a lyric poem, autobiographical — I, I dream. The poet describes a recurrent dream of his in which he drives alone in the snow, no other traffic, himself carrying nothing of his life (without luggage) out to the end of a long peninsula; and when he gets to the point at which he can drive no further, he sits in his car while its stalled engine churns until everything shuts down — the headlights darken.

Such a dream, recurrent, seems suicidal, the poet drawn to an eerie narrative of a more and more narrowing world in which his mind – headlights – finally stalls and shuts off. Snow is all over this dream as the pall of coffined earth, covering the dying poet more and more as he moves forward.

*****************************

II

At the field’s end, in the corner missed by the mower,
Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse,
Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump,
Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, —
One learned of the eternal;
And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles
(I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin)
And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run,
Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers,
Blasted to death by the night watchman.

I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower,
My grief was not excessive.
For to come upon warblers in early May
Was to forget time and death:
How they filled the oriole’s elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, —
Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, —
Moving, elusive as fish, fearless,
Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches,
Still for a moment,
Then pitching away in half-flight,
Lighter than finches,
While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows,
And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.

— Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Thinking:
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
Believing:
I’ll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.

***********************************

Wait – I’ll post what I have so far. What with all the interruptions (along with the Hatchet reporter, La Kid called wanting to talk about Pride and Prejudice, and Mr UD called), I haven’t been able to concentrate on the poem’s second section.

I think Mr UD misses me. He said: “You are like Formula One racing. Maybe not so great for one’s longevity, but very exciting.”

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