Saturday, January 17, 2009

Silly Goose

Just a poem today, but first an ecological aside. The Hudson River landing was epic all around, but a couple of the early reports contained speculations that birds had struck the plane. Well, let's get our direct objects right--who struck whom, exactly? In another article it was said that "both engines ingested multiple birds," which is more gruesome but also more accurate. No, I am no Audubon fanatic (I ride in those bird-killing machines too), but there would seem to be a moral of modernity here. "Are birds a problem?" we all suddenly wonder. Who knew that avian death lurked so close overhead?

So, in a bit of a crotchety and curmudgeonly mood, and reflecting on the frigid landscape (for the Carolinas anyway) and the passing of quasi-folk artist Andrew Wyeth, my thoughts came to roost on Robert Frost. Frost is often thought of as a folksy guy, and perhaps he was, but in a dark sort of way. The "black dog" hounded his life: he, his mother, and his wife suffered from depression; his daughter was committed to an institution, and his son committed suicide at age 38.

No "snowy evenings" here, but instead this:

An Old Man's Winter Night

All out-of-doors looked darkly in at him
Through the thin frost, almost in separate stars,
That gathers on the pane in empty rooms.
What kept his eyes from giving back the gaze
Was the lamp tilted near them in his hand.
What kept him from remembering what it was
That brought him to that creaking room was age.
He stood with barrels round him--at a loss.
And having scared the cellar under him
In clomping here, he scared it once again
In clomping off--and scared the outer night,
Which has its sounds, familiar, like the roar
Of trees and crack of branches, common things,
But nothing so like beating on a box.
A light he was to no one but himself
Where now he sat, concerned with he knew what,
A quiet light, and then not even that.
He consigned to the moon--such as she was,
So late-arising--to the broken moon,
As better than the sun in any case
For such a charge, his snow upon the roof,
His icicles along the wall to keep;
And slept. The log that shifted with a jolt
Once in the stove, disturbed him and he shifted,
And eased his heavy breathing, but still slept.
One aged man--one man--can't keep a house,
A farm, a countryside, or if he can,
It's thus he does it of a winter night.

A bracing reminder for Inauguration Day--one man can't keep a house. It takes a village--no that's not what I mean. "Be a light unto yourself," the Buddha said; ideally, unto others too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kamikaze birds. Part of an 'underground' mass bird conspiracy to reassert their avian dominance.

Humans who act like geese, and birds who think they're martyrs - it's an old plot...