Saturday, March 12, 2011

rivers and trees

Home and drowsy, looking forward to longer days and walks to the lake.

It was a day of movement, of driving to the hometown for coffee with my mom and sister, checking up on my great uncle because he hadn't answered the phone and we wanted to be sure he was still alive.

Randal will be pleased to know that not all the suburban crackers think they're pretty fly for a white guy as the radio of the couple riding the bright yellow rice rocket turning the corner on Renwood was distinctly blaring (in a manner most tinny), the sounds of vintage Black Sabbath.

Me and my friend and her dog went out and wandered in the woods of Tinker's Creek, where neither of us anticipated the wetness of flooded riverbanks and melted snow, but we pressed on through the muck, working our way through mud and melting snow and drooping trees feeling like it was Narnia when the weather stopped being always winter and never Christmas. The river was swollen and brown and smelled lovely "even though it's probably sewage" as she says, but the power of the water rushing over rocks, wearing down the sides of cliffs and the lichen covered walls.

Up on top of the steep hills was a plan punctuated by trees, of water half frozen, pools like voids in the snow, stark profiles of trees and wild grass, fire hydrants, concrete slabs from homes never built, now reclaimed as wetland.

It feels like something of a Bradbury novel, a future where civilization has been wiped clean, with only remnants of a past that look arcane in the wildness, as we step from one clump of grass to another, looking for paths back down into the ravine that dead end and we let the dog run down the hill as we feel our way from tree branch to tree branch, root to root, seeking ground that won't give way as we make our way down the hill.

We walk along the river, our feet cold and clothes dirty, but full of celebration at the thaw, at the stark beauty of empty trees and the endless shades of brown and gray like the rust and stone of our city.

I'm reminded of this part of the Four Quartets that is more beautiful than anything that will ever come from my hand.

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god - sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
The only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities - ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
His rhythm was present in the nursery bedroom,
In the rank ailanthus of the April dooryard,
In the smell of grapes on the autumn table,
And the evening circle in the winter gaslight.

The river is within us, the sea is all about us;
The sea is the land's edge also, the granite,
Into which it reaches, the beaches where it tosses
Its hints of earlier and other creation:
The starfish, the horseshoe crab, the whale's backbone;
The pools where it offers to our curiosity
The more delicate algae and the sea anemone.
It tosses up our losses, the torn seine,
The shattered lobsterpot, the broken oar
And the gear of foreign dead men. The sea has many voices,
Many gods and many voices.
The salt is on the briar rose,
The fog is in the fir trees.
The sea howl
And the sea yelp, are different voices
Often together heard: the whine in the rigging,
The menace and caress of wave that breaks on water,
The distant rote in the granite teeth,
And the wailing warning form the approaching headland
Are all sea voices, and the heaving groaner
Rounded homewards, and the seagull:
And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
Whem time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
The bell.


Anonymous said...

hope this doesn't feel like a homework assignment, if it does pls disregard:

Randal Graves said...

Sabbath? I must go cry tears of joy, then tears of sadness 'cause you keep on posting Eliot and he's good and I suck. Start posting some Tom Zart, please.

thatgirl said...

Because you asked,

"A good poem like a cardinal
Is pregnant with song
You can't help but hear its message
As it sings what's right or wrong."

Though if I want my pometry charged with the grandeur of God, I'm going to opt for Hopkins.