Tuesday, October 11, 2016

On Such a Day as This, What Would I Do?

Drive up to see the aspens' yellow glory in the mountains above Santa Fe, take the train down the length of Italy to Rome?  Sail through the Bay of Biscay in a striped Breton fishing shirt and cargo shorts, barefoot, or just go to the library on the back road?

Make minestrone soup, or farro and white beans with rosemary, or a good stew?  Maybe a cassoulet with chicken, sausages, and the bacon I have by chance on hand?

Go on a horseback ride from pumpkin patches to the white-capped surf, and then eat fish grilled simply at the harbor with the fishing boats?

Read Tony Hillerman, Colette, or Henry James? 

Which world, which guise, to choose?  The breathlessly impossible or the quiet and sure?

A single poem, I come up with or come down to.  A poem I pluck from all the year's accumulated bounty like a perfect apricot, kept well beyond its season in a hand-shaped blue-glazed bowl.  A poem that encapsulates the day, the time, the longing that arises on this crumbling edge between what's been and what's coming.  What's here.

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

—Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems 1957-1982, North Point Press

image:  Santa Justa Beach, Bay of Biscay

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