Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Bright Posterity

Happy Grandparents’ Day!
My mother’s parents
M. Rovilla Heideman & Paul J. Lindsey
I like the way that their 1920s outfits
capture the style of Virginia Woolf & James Joyce!

In the following poem, a past poet sends a message to a future reader, who is "almost family." Yet, it seems to me that the sentiment rings just as true for actual family, who study a fleeting photograph, with perhaps an inscription on the back, hoping to "make sense . . . from a distance beyond appeal." Created in the image of our ancestors, are we, living within the limitations of the present, able to "go on listening to these syllables that" were theirs, to decipher whatever it was that they meant for us to know? One thing I know for sure, my grandparents certainly conveyed "the ancients' confidence . . . in some ultimate moment of insight."

The words of poet W. S. Merwin (1927 - 2019) are so prescient, it is almost as if he knew about the plagues and fires of 2020:

I hope I make sense to
you in the shimmer of
our days while the world we
cling to in common is

burning . . .

Yes, wise poet. Perfect sense.
Cover Note

Hypocrite reader my
variant my almost
family we are so
few now it seems as though
we knew each other as
the words between us keep
assuming that we do
I hope I make sense to
you in the shimmer of
our days while the world we
cling to in common is

burning for I have not
the ancients' confidence
in the survival of
one track of syllables
nor in some ultimate
moment of insight that
supposedly will dawn
once and for all upon
a bright posterity
making clear only to
them what passes between

us now in a silence
on this side of the flames
so that from a distance
beyond appeal only
they of the future will
behold our true meaning
which eludes us as we
breathe reader beside your
timepiece do you believe
any such thing do the
children read what you do

when they read or can you
think the words will rise from
the page saying the same
things when they speak for us
no longer and then who
in the total city
will go on listening
to these syllables that
are ours and be able
still to hear moving through
them the last rustling of

paws in high grass the one
owl hunting along this
spared valley the tongues of
the free trees our uncaught
voices reader I do
not know that anyone
else is waiting for these
that I hoped might seem
as though they had occurred
to you and you would take
them with you as your own.

~ W.S. Merwin (1927 - 2019)
Author of The Shadow of Sirius
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2009
Poet Laureate of the United States, 2010 - 2011

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