Friday, November 27, 2015

365 True Things: 243/Poetry

The other week I was fortunate enough to participate in a workshop with National Book Award–winning poet, essayist, and memoirist Mark Doty. He was generous and inspiring, and a wonderful listener. I think we all came away from working with him with a few new tools in our quiver.

I'd read his book in the Graywolf "Art of . . ." series, Art of Description: World into Word, and loved it. I've owned Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy since my MFA days, but still haven't read it. I've picked it up, read in it, but sitting down and giving it my slow attention remains something for the future. I don't believe I have the book that won the award, Fire to Fire, but it's on my list.

At the workshop, I picked up his newest book of poems, Deep Lane. He autographed it for me: For Anne, all my best for you and your beautifully evocative writing. Nice, huh? Like I said: generous.

The past few days, for my morning read before meditating, I've been dipping into it. It's gorgeous. Sometimes hard, but redeeming, sustaining. "Poems of grace and nobility," as the jacket blurb puts it.

Here's one I especially like. If Mark comes after me for infringing copyright, I'll refer you to the page in the book.

Oh, what the heck: it's 19. Go get the book. It's poetry at its best.

Deep Lane

June 23rd, evening of the first fireflies,
we're walking in the cemetery down the road,
and I look up from my distracted study of whatever,

an unfocused gaze somewhere a few feet in front of my shoes,

and see that Ned has run on ahead
with the champagne plume of his tail held especially high,
his head erect,

which is often a sign that he has something he believes he is not allowed to have,

and in the gathering twilight (what is it that is gathered,
who is doing the harvesting?) I can make out that the long horizontal
between his lovely jaws is one of the four stakes planted on the slope

to indicate where the backhoe will dig a new grave.

Of course my impulse is to run after him, to replace the marker,
out of respect for the rule that we won't desecrate the tombs,
or at least for those who knew the woman

whose name inks a placard in the rectangle claimed by the four poles

of vanishing—three poles now—and how it's within their recollection,
their gathering, she'll live. Evening of memory. Spark-lamps in the grass.
I stand and watch him go in his wild figure eights,

I say, You run, darling, you tear up that hill.

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