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  • A Poem from Wisconsin in February
    Wautoma, Wisconsin
    After Dylan Thomas and in reply
    Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
              Time held me green and dying
         Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
                             – Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”
    Now as I was grown still and silent under the pine boughs
    All scattered round the whitened lake froze solid,
         The morning cracking open in sheets,
              Time knew our contract
         And would not shrink or swell,
    And I was long humbled among the curb and pavement crowds
    And a servant of the curves and turns which rapid
              Hide the purpose of the streets
         Behind the woody columns of the dell,

    And as I was minister of pine straw and gold
    In the cabin-wood and mute as the earth was firm
         In the sun that lights the ice,
              Time kept the dying beat
         With mighty hand to the drum,
    And I was sexton of dust and leaf and fragment;
    Lullaby and eulogy brought down the birds of God
              To hear the sabbath turning
         In its sleep within my lungs.

    All the ocean-night had the ancient hosts
    Of spheres enwrapped a wandering world, and wet
         And sailing in severe curves
              I had raced maps
         To lie to all things.
    Long as sun-sky and soon as shorelines,
    Swept, those spirits, the ground beneath my knees
         And stilled the earth
              In a coda of wings.

    Then to awake and know the morning, pledged and kept
    And far like an unfamiliar inheritance. I was Adam
         And, charged to give truth
              To each creature,
         Would name all names
    And ask forgiveness of every thing that lifts its gift
    Before it in procession, stepping silent in white robes
         To the even pulse
              That pulls each one the same.

    And standing priest before the sylvan congregation
    I chanted the rite that guides this dying march,
         With Time, who marks the steps
              Until his cadence ends
         And he counts no more.
    And nothing do I not mourn of nights that I had fled
    The rigid rhythms of Time by running to his tempo,
         Impuissant to make an escape,
              When by fear he was my lord.

    Nothing do I not mourn of when I did not heed his beat
    Those days I thought he was my master, Time
         Who cannot bind me to what I embrace
              Who cannot master any
         Whom he does not bind.
    Yes, perhaps now I sing in my chains like the sea,
    But they will burst asunder in the morning chorus,
              And then I will sing
         Like the very earth itself.

    By · August 30, 2012 · contemplation, Featured, poetry · [Print]

    3 Comments to “A Poem from Wisconsin in February”

    1. Jessica says:

      This is beautiful. Reminiscent a tiny bit of gerard manly hopkins and mary oliver all at the same time. I really like the cadence of it. I’d think I’ll sit in my cabin this winter with a cup of tea and read it again.

      Thank you for introducing me to Franz Wright years ago. He has deeply touched me and healed me.

      Also, I sure would love to sit with you over coffee someday.

      • John Daniel says:

        Thank you. And I too think a cup of coffee would be wonderful, and I can imagine that there will be a someday for that, though I don’t know when, since my trips down to Texas are less frequent these days. But I do hope to see y’all again and visit the apothecary that I’ve just now seen some pictures of over on the Fbook!

    2. Sing, O you heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

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