Monday, May 22, 2006

Great Blue

The other day I received an email from the poet Brendan Galvin, whom I studied as an undergrad and whose poetry I much admire, inquiring about a poem in Riverfall which mentions him. It's true I said, the second poem---titled "The Best Time for Reading Poetry"---does in fact mention Galvin, as well as Mary Oliver and A.R. Ammons. I'm just getting a copy of the book off to him, which made me pull out his Great Blue: New and Selected Poems, published in 1990.

Here is the title poem, and the last in the collection:

Great Blue

Often,
around certain backwaters
like the ponds behind the oyster shacks,
I hope for a heron,

and sometimes I'm granted
that wood-silver,
crooked-stick, channel-marker effect
of the loosened neck,

and that silence, humped like
an overburden of experience,
the weight it hauls in flight
from river to pond above a highway

when I look up at the mere
abstract silhouette bird but am taken
by the dragged beat of wings

translucent at their tips,
and the cocked spurs trawled behind,
and have to swerve to hold the lane.

But I never expected it this morning,
Mother, on the wall of this room
you share with strangers:

the Egyptian sign for the generation
of life, its wisp of feather
hairlike off the nape, among the old
in their own humped solitudes.

Reason, that chain-store item,
can deny this forever, but that bird
shadows us, at key moments is there,

its gumped-up look guarding justice,
longevity, the journey
of the good and diligent soult.

-- Brendan Galvin

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