BORN IN DECEMBER
for Nancy Marshall
You are like me born at the end of the year;
When in our city day closes blueness comes
We see a beginning in the ritual end.
Never mind: I know it is never what it seems,
That ending: for we are born, we are born there,
There is an entrance we may always find.
They reckon by the wheel of the year. Our birth’s before.
From the dark birthday to the young year’s first stay
We are the ones who wait and look for ways:
Ways of beginning, ways to be born, ways for
Solvings, turnings, wakings; we are always
A little younger than they think we are.
Renewal: Solvings, Turnings, Wakings: that's our Seed of the Week. The old Make-em-and-Break-em New Year's Resolution thing. Housecleaning. Starting over. Taking the saw to old ways, "ways of beginning, ways to be born," as Rukeyser says. Send your poetic thoughts on Renewal to email@example.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs—or on starting over, either, for that matter...
Today they cut down the oak.
Strong men climbed with ropes
in the brittle tree.
The exhaust of a gasoline saw
was blue in the branches.
It is February. The oak has been dead a year.
I remember the great sails of its branches
rolling out greenly, a hundred and twenty feet up,
and acorns thick on the lawn.
Nine cities of squirrels lived in that tree.
Today they run over the snow
squeaking their lamentation.
Yet I was happy that it was coming down.
“Let it come down!” I kept saying to myself
with a joy that was strange to me.
Though the oak was the shade of old summers,
I loved the gutteral saw.
Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.
I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.
There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the grey
and changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii
The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.
His life was the practice of forming a single sentence which, as he grew older, he tried to simplify, reduce its compound-complex structure into one statement ruled by the single, inviolate pronoun within which he attempted to live, always engaged in revision and the act of becoming; as the distilled statement gradually became a fleeting inquiry, a mild interrogative that he repeated and refined, making it increasingly concise, almost, at his conclusion, producing no more than a single sound, not quite a word, less than a cry, which his death erased leaving the question mark hanging in the air, like a broken halo, emblem of his birth, evolution and release: a full life.