Across the street, two boys begin to bury
a girl in leaves. Kneeling at her side
they show her how to cover her face—don't
forget to breathe, I imagine they tell her,
when what they really should say is, Try
to remember the smell of sun through it all. It's
a rare courtship. I watch her help,
gathering the leaves to her like love,
hiding herself. No matter how many, it's
the same heavy. One leaf will find its way
beneath her shirt, another will tickle her lip.
What she'll hear is almost like breathing,
and it must be the leaves. Sounds beyond love,
sounds beyond love… Remember, I would tell her,
there are such things.
Poem originally appeared on granta.com.
These poems shine with the deep intelligence of gentleness and of a quiet, sustained concern. To read them is to be reminded of Robert Creeley's passionate advocacy of Hart Crane, a passion that reached crescendo in the exclamation (in a letter to Charles Olson) "Dammit, isn't that gentle!" Here is a poet whose primary commitment is to attention, a poet who simultaneously understands and avows that attention is now and ever shall be the vivid prime of Love. I neither blush nor hesitate to say that such avowal is literally angelic. This poet's "Requiem" gently but unequivocally proposes point-of-view as an angelic imperative, gentle on its very face: "Try/to remember the smell of sun through it all. It's/a rare courtship." Love courts attention, and attention in return is both courted and empowered by love. The upshot? "There was a beating/of silence then, until it was a new quiet..." It is the bright substance of this "new quiet" I am happy to welcome and to acknowledge. It is surely the peaceable frontier of joy.