Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”`
What do people who are not poets do to mark, and ensure they remember, significant events in their lives? The attempt to preserve such moments does not necessarily make a good poem. But I think this one did. When this one shifts from blank verse to rhymed iambic tetrameter toward the end to signify moving on to a less heavy time, it works (at least for me). But what works even better is the shift back to one lone unrhymed line of iambic pentameter at the very end. A stronger final statement I don’t think I have ever made.
Commentary, I Cor. 15:17-19
It was two years ago the lightning struck
The oak tree in Great Grandma Lee’s front yard
Whose branches were like tree trunks in their own right.
It seemed a fitting time to learn of it:
Great Grandma’s daughter could not even leave
The car and hobble over to the gravesite
The day we buried Pa’pa Jones. They rolled
The window down so she could hear the service
Shouted over wind that made the young
And sturdy shake. It took two men to help her
From the car to the house. What little aid
Her limp legs gave was more than they could notice.
They finally got her propped up in a chair
Where she sat passive, still herself as death
Amidst the flux of relatives and friends
Bringing their plies and cakes and plates of chicken,
Conserving strength until someone should speak.
“Miss Grace, your husband was my Daddy’s boss
At Silvercraft.” She came alive and smiled:
“After he retired he tried to get
Bossy with me at home, and so I said,
‘You want someone to boss, go back to work!’”
She could not keep it up, and soon retired
Back deep inside the skull, where, lithe and supple,
Her mind still lived and listened, thought, and waited
For the next voice to separate itself
Out from the general buzz. Meanwhile the crowd
Spilled out into the yard and hunched their backs
Up in their overcoats against the cold,
Noting how bare the place looked since the maples
Had lost their crowns to let the power lines
Get past unhindered. So then Cousin Baron,
Up from the old home-place in the country,
Spoke with pride and sadness of the Tree
Whose limbs had shaded Grace when her’s were graceful:
“It was the oldest tree in Lincoln County.
We know Aunt Laney had a swing in it
When she was just a little girl, and if
She were alive she’d be a hundred-ninety.
It took the men two weeks to take it down.
The stump was nineteen feet across the base,
But hollow and rotten. When the lightning struck
We had no choice.”
“That hurts,” somebody said.
They seemed appropriate words for such a day,
Black and desolate in the dead of winter.
They say Time soothes old wounds, but do not mention
That it inflicts as many as it heals.
The wind blew ‘til another season came.
The world stood on the verge of Spring:
The lightest mist or haze of green
O’er lines of limbs was glimmering
To blur the starker structures seen
For half the year, now glistening
With white of snow and sun, now dark
Against the sky, enveloping
With folded arms the moon or spark
Of blazing star. So, lingering,
They wait another week’s increase
Of leaves, whose subtle softening
Of sight and sound will sigh, “Release
Your vigilance against the cold!”
And yet beneath their whispering
I sense the limbs remembering
The fate of every former Spring,
And feel them growing old.
We must await a stronger Spring than this.
Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.