Talking Back

Talking Back (To W. H. Auden)

‘for poetry makes nothing happen. . .’

What it makes happen is small things,
sometimes, to some, in an area
already pretty well taken
care of by the senses. Thus, to
the eye, spruce needles fix the tufts
of new snow to the twigs so the
wind cannot dislodge them. They hold —
a metaphor. And in the ear,
the open, talking shapes, jet black,
in a snowbound brook, croon about
cold. And snow-foliage on the
high slopes dupes the eye, the whirring
spruces dupe the ear, and you think:
catkins, maybe, in February
or you think: whirring of doves’ wings.
And ice underfoot is mica —
correspondences a man will
find, to his slight alteration,
always, where he pays attention —
on a walk after powder snow,
in a poem. As you well know.

Looked at carefully, nothing is sullen
but an inattentive creature.
Disorderly things praise order.
The exact details of our plight
in your poems, order revealed
by the closest looking, are things
I’m changed by and had never seen,
might never have seen, but for them.

Poetry makes such things happen
sometimes, as certain people do
at the right juncture of our lives.
Don’t knock it, it has called across
the enchanted chasm of love
resemblances like rescue gear.
It is like finding on your tongue
right words to call across the floe
of arrogance to the wise dead,
of health to sickness, old to young.
Across this debt, we tell you so.

—William Meredith


Published in: on January 17, 2010 at 12:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

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