BY LATE DECEMBER, TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE

Friday, December 09, 2005
For Sabrina




I go onto the mountain to defend

My loneliness, by yielding to white time,

Find granite fissures and the river's bend

Obedient to stone's weakness. My notes rhyme

With some of snow's ideas: early ice

Forms all around me shattering country rock,

But gently, plucking boulders from cliff-face

And canyon. —Hollows, cold shadows come back

Again, this year appearing not to know me

Who played with them. Last summer my song fled

Headlong and watery, down to a wide valley

Floor, where the opening sky took hearts and bled

Blue back, as vivid as the Steller's jay

Shrieks killers' joy, and strops its feathered blade.

17 comments:

Skookumchuk said...

Bravo. Very good.

Buddy Larsen said...

beautiful, gorgeous language...reminded me of the Bruce Beresford film "Black Robe". The savage virgin wilderness.

Syl said...

I want to go there too.

Beautiful, Jamie.

truepeers said...

Yes, there's beautiful country in that film and beautiful language in this poem. I was thinking how very American this poem is while Buddy - did he think of it - was dreaming of a Canadian landscape where, according to many of our myths, the church, crown, and company go into the bush first, the settlers and solitary poets second. I would like to know what Jamie would do with the great white north. I would like to know what/who is Townsend.

My first class in university was in Canadian literature. The professor asked us to read this poem and come back to class the next day and tell him what it was about. There were many wrong answers until finally a girl at the back of the room stood up and got it right, said the prof. I'll give the same question to you guys as a test of your wilderness spirit :->

Buddy Larsen said...

I'll answer in-kind, with a quick (obviously) verse:

"Mother Nature makes and shows it,
but G*d in man is all Who knows it."

Buddy Larsen said...

Upon re-read, By Late December' seems a painter's poem...a Van Gogh (that Christ-man) vision, looking down the darkling valley, and trying so hard to fill it with color/warmth/heart/life.

And succeeding--but never to know it.

Buddy Larsen said...

jamie--being a bird-watcher as you iz--have you ever written of the Owl? The only silent-flier (tiny baffles on trailing wing-feathers), the only binocular-visioned bird, the only animal of any sort living on all seven continents, and the creature that flies through the night searching, calling Who? Who? Who?

Jamie Irons said...

All the comments have been very generous. Thank you.

"Townsend's Solitaire" (Myadestes townsendi) is a bird; I see it only when I go to the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. It's a subtle, almost unobtrusive thrush-like bird with a nice highly variable call. It reminds me of the result of the mating (which would not of course be a successful one!) of a Mockingbird and a Hermit Thrush.

Buddy,

No, I have never tried to write about owls. I ought to. On any given night on "my" mountain, I can hear, and more rarely see, Great Horned and Screech Owls; more rarely I hear Northern Saw-Whet Owls. (I have never seen one, more's the pity!)

J.

Buddy Larsen said...

how do you the author's message in 'peers poem, Jamie? It can't be as simple as "light and heat are thought".

Buddy Larsen said...

Oh, alright, I give up...unless someone else wants to interpret, ya gotta tell us, 'peers, what did she say?

chuck said...

Buddy,

I'll answer in-kind, with a quick (obviously) verse:

I would have guessed the resurrection, if forced to be "poetical."

Great Horned and Screech Owls; more rarely I hear Northern Saw-Whet Owls.

Cats will bring in the smaller owls for close observation. I think they pick them off the fenceposts where they perch. The Great Horned owls are too big for that, but it is a wonder to scratch through scat that piles up under the trees where they roost.

truepeers said...

She said "masturbation". And the prof. said, "yes, exactly. And so Canadian, he was was wearing his mittens." Gained a whole new perspective on Victorian culture with that!

truepeers said...

whole new perspective on university profs and what they're about, too!

Rick Ballard said...

Good lord man! Get a grip on yourself.

Buddy Larsen said...

Sly prof...a-frolic among the daisies, stops to pluck a trope.

Buddy Larsen said...

Anyhoo, 'Peers, the prof's interp is a terrific buzz-killer. I like Chuck's answer a whole bunch better. ;-)

Buddy Larsen said...

nothing against Eros as a poetic form, but--damn--let's have something to picture softer, warmer, more fragrant and curvaceous than a tree stump. I was 15 once and I can tell ya, a tree stump is not that much fun. There's the lack of any real communication, and then of course the splinters.