Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Commonplaces, Yaga, Dillard

Yaga puts me in mind of Annie Dillard's "Dominion of Trees," the last poem I read last night before lowering the gate and letting the darkness in. He writes, in part:

Sometimes the warm cicada breeze at sundown lifts back the sky. Traffic slows. Call it eight o'clock; the sky smiles purple and gold. The fireflies rise to meet us. We feel as though even the ground would take us, softly, in its embrace. Call it love; the old tree on the corner fans us with its thick green leaves and the night sings a lullaby of jasmine. We dream of the rain.

Dillard, on the other hand, writes, in part:

Trees preserve dominion,
put competition
in the shade. We eat
our fruit, slice
our meat in this green shade.
under the arches of your bare feet
where you run, Teresa,
white roots suck up their watery salts.

Here ground speaks
its one word: tree.
No handle hits ax
more square, more fixed
than these trunks grow,
these speeches
of rock rise up.
But look,
loose at the top,
sun and soil have their leafy say.

Falling from trees,
children accelerate
thirty-two feet
per second, per second.
Lie in the dark,
shine a lantern up--
color! leaves still green.
Under your back,
ground water walks
a mile per year.

Gah! -- Handles hitting axes! Children succumbing to gravity with Newtonian precision!

It's the elegiac tone of much of her work, not to mention the title of this particular collection of poems (Tickets for a Prayer Wheel (1974), that's made her one of the more well-regarded women among the devout who lacks a clear religious affiliation -- and deservedly so; I know no one who can claim to be more palpably spiritual than she.


Anonymous Bryan said...

Actually, Dillard does have a clear religious affiliation. When she wrote that book, she was a Presbyterian. In the early 1990s, she converted to Catholicism.

4:24 PM  

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