Monday, January 30, 2006

Poem of the Week 1/27/2006: First Song

First Song

Then it was dark in Illinois, the small boy,
After an afternoon of carting dung
Hung on the rail fence, a sapped thing
Weary to crying. Dark was growing tall
And he began to hear the pond frogs all
Calling on his ear with what seemed their joy.

Soon their sound was pleasant for a boy
Listening in the smoky dusk and the nightfall
Of Illinois, and from the fields two small
Boys came bearing cornstalk violins
And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
And the three sat there scraping of their joy.

It was now fine music the frogs and the boys
Did in the towering Illinois twilight make
And into dark in spite of a shoulder's ache
A boy's hunched body loved out of a stalk
The first song of his happiness, and the song woke
His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.

Galway Kinnell 1960

Oh poetry about love. This poem melds form and content; I hope to show you here how the form twists in on itself, cradling and loving its song. That its title is "First Song" is not surprising, given the music Kinnell achieves through unity of form. His images sing with the rhyme, which reinforces the repetition which emphasizes the content. The harmony of form and content make this poem beautiful.

You ask, can she argue that the poem is or is not beautiful? In some ways, yes. In my aesthetics class right now (I have a feeling that several future PotWs will contain that phrase), we are read an essay by Clive Bell. Therein, he argues that all true art will have "significant form," which is basically a self-consciousness of structure. Now I disagree with Bell on his argument and several of his other claims, but I agree that, fundamentally, art is concerned with form. And if I can explain why I see the form as beautiful, then perhaps you might agree. My discussion might add to your view of the poem. Or you might think that the form is beautiful in other ways, or perhaps not beautiful at all, and that is one reason why we talk about poetry and art. We are discussing why we think something is beautiful (unified, graceful, coherent).

Every word is a workhorse in "First Song," accomplishing multiple tasks. In the first stanza, the oft-used internal rhyme like "Illinois" and "boy," "dung" and "hung," "thing" and "crying," establishes unity from line to line and casts a childlike feel onto the poem. The unity presages the connectedness the boy eventually experiences, and the innocence underlines the final message of pure joy. Then, too, this is the most compressed internal rhyme in the poem, perhaps reflecting the boy's extreme tiredness. The diction in the first stanza articulates this empathy as well. The phrase "a sapped thing" tenderly regards the exhausted boy like a wilted flower. We imagine that all he can do is sit and listen.

"Weary to crying," his intellect retreats, allowing his elemental parts to tune in. The pond frogs "call on his ear" as if coming to court him out of his misery. The concert turns into a dance when two boys come out of the cornfield bearing "cornstalk violins / And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins / And the three sat there scraping of their joy." The sweetness and whimsy of it come through in diction like "rubbed" and "scraped" and images like "cornstalk violins." I love that cornstalks can't actually produce a melody in the conventional sense; they rustle. That's all. But, the narrator notes, it was "fine music."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Poem of the Week 1/23/2006: An Ode to Asymmetry

An Ode to Asymmetry

What you unearth is an unearthly thing:
what clings to it is neither root nor soil
nor any *thing*, but evanescent, scentless
thought, a hovercraft that crosses on twin foils,
back and forth the agitated waters of the mind,
and never lands. And what it crosses, it negates;
it crosses out.
Like the antimatter
of the universe, with all of matter's properties
reversed: when it meets a particle of
matter, the pair annihilate each other--
in their place: pure energy, radiant light,
as if destruction were divine. Not so!
For symmetry is broken from the start,
from which all things descend, and here we are.

When the universe began--Creation
as Big Bang--for reason science can
not explain, the balance tipped toward
matter: more was made of matter
than of its absent antimatter twin.
Perfect symmetry would have equaled
pure annihilation, that nothingness
of which both Indian saint
and French logician
dream, exquisite binary machine--
Being and Nothingness: ka-boom.

And knowing that, the thought, unearthly,
which these lines at first unearthed, dissolves,
a cloud that had obscured the sun:
the ocean waves continue as before, embrace
with foam the swimmer on her board
(each bubble a lens to catch the light),
the mountain rises from the ocean's floor,
and out in space, the galaxies spin on,
the stars wink back at everything:
root, plant, orangutan,
blue planet, rutabaga, kitchen sink.

Eleanor Wilner 2005

Sometimes I want to stop everyone I see and tell them that yes: poetry exists, and I love it, and then I love them. Is that strange? Perhaps. In any case, I think that it is one of the byproducts of reacting to something aesthetically. The reason I took so long to write this Poem of the Week is that I love it so much. I can't write about many of my favorite poems. I almost don't want to - I make notes in my book, but I don't want to come at the poem with ropes and a thesis. Sometimes I just want to surrender to it.

This is something we talked about in my aesthetics class - great works can move us to silence. And yet we chatter endlessly about what James Joyce meant if the period in the third episode was just a typo and what could this mean etc. Some might say that the entire field of literary criticism is an attempt to intellectualize what we ought to just be loving. There are certainly professors, students, and critics who fall away from their love for literature, but I think that most of us are just desperately trying to understand what we love so much. I know that that's what this blog is for me - an endless attempt to express my love for poetry. I hope that you can all see that. I try to hold on to it as much as possible. If I go into literary criticism, I want to attempt to always infuse my work with love. I don't know if that's forever possible, but it is certainly possible to try.

This is a poem that traverses the universe and the properties of matter to end with extraordinary love. Asymmetry glimmers out at every level, and we appreciate it. There is a Romantic twist in the title; "An Ode to Asymmetry" perhaps references Keats' famous "Ode on a Grecian Urn" or "Ode to a Nightingale." It's thus probably about beauty or truth. Or love! I think, in the end, it's a poem about love, beauty, and appreciating what is around us.

The structure is circular; it begins with a thought and flies to the edges of the universe before returning to that thought. In the first stanza, the dominant metaphor is that of the human mind as the earth. You dig up this thought as if from the mind's soil and it hovers over the brain's "agitated waters." This thought is never named. Much of the poem attempts to describe this thought, and, by the end, we get the idea that it is something disturbing and destructive. Perhaps even symmetrical.

We know this thought is "like the antimatter / of the universe, with all of matter's properties / reversed." It destroys what it touches, albeit in a flash of "pure energy, radiant light." The next line, "as if destruction were divine," does not mean "as if destruction were holy:" rather, "as if destruction were the way of things." Luckily, the universe does not have matter and antimatter in proportion. It is unbalanced, and from that inequality we descend. This idea is familiar - humans descend from a break in creation, from imperfection, from some original sin. Perhaps this poem is another theory of the fall of matter.

It is positive, though. Luckily in the creation of the universe, "the balance tipped toward / matter." The poem suggests that it perhaps favored asymmetry because "perfect symmetry would have equaled / pure annihilation." I am not sure who the Indian saint is (any ideas, anyone?), but the French Logician is probably Jacques Derrida. He started Deconstructionism, a movement arguing against meaning. Essentially, he writes that language is an inconstant structure, and that we can never really "know" any word's definition. There is an infinite looping of definitions - each word is defined by more words, so each definition cancels out the word. Meaning doesn't exist. I could be wrong about the reference - any feedback is welcome! The phrase "exquisite binary machine" takes a little dig at technology's binary system because it's connected to symmetry, perhaps pushing against our society's idealization of machines.

The last stanza is a love stanza. The disturbing thought dissolves, and the mind's earth recedes to the real one. This earth embraces its swimmers, the mountains and the ocean move in harmony, and the very galaxies wink at the odd, lovable elements of this world. It reminded me of the title of one of Richard Wilbur's poems, "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World." Perhaps asymmetry does as well.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Poem of the Week 1/16/2006: Little Red-Cap

Little Red-Cap

At childhood’s end, the houses petered out
into playing fields, the factory, allotments
kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men,
the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan,
till you came at last to the edge of the woods.
It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf.

He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud
in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw,
red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears
he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth!
In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me,
sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink,

my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.
The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods,
away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place
lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake,
my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer
snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes

but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night,
breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem.
I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for
what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf?1
Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws
and went in search of a living bird – white dove –

which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth.
One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said,
licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back
of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.
Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head,
warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood.

But then I was young – and it took ten years
in the woods to tell that a mushroom
stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds
are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf
howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out,
season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe

to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon
to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf
as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw
the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones.
I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up.
Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone.

Carol Ann Duffy 1999

1see Sylvia Plath, “Daddy,” line 48, “Every woman adores a fascist”

I guess that I had never really thought about the archetypal significance of fairy tales, though I now can’t think why not. Often, the simplest stories hold some of the greatest truths, and the ones that stay on the cultural radar like Little Red-Cap (the original British title for Little Red Riding Hood) do so because they continue to hold relevance. This incarnation points out that Little Red-Cap is a story of childhood’s end, the transition from innocence to experience. Duffy’s poem is a riff on a theme appearing in texts from the Bible to the Little Prince, and a particularly firey one at that.

Rather than ruminating about the now-grown-up girl or nostalgically sighing about lost childhood, “Little Red-Cap” throws us full-force into the heady whirlwind of adolescence. Finding love, sex, passion, independence, darkness, and poetry is so consuming that it replaces the traps of nostalgia. This poem hands us a girl ready to throw her child-self into the fire of experience and march into the woods alone.

Indeed, the poem begins “At childhood’s end,” almost the name of a physical place. Here, the landscape itself points towards a more aware, dangerous, sexual world. “The houses [peter] out / into playing fields,” perhaps symbolizing the gradual diminishment of childhood securities, and garden plots, gesturing at sexuality, are “kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men.” As Little Red-Cap walks to the edges of this land, her surroundings stretch vast and bade, the only inhabitants a forsaken rail line and a hermit. Childhood seems empty, at its end.

Enter the wolf. She claps eyes on him, and her world shifts. The word “clap” recalls a thunder-clap, foreshadowing the coming tempest. He is alluring, rugged, adult, and exotic. His language is different, his paws are rough, and his chin bears a forbidden sign of adulthood: wine. In every way, we can imagine, he is different from the soft, safe world of childhood. Unfamiliar and magnetic. She registers his eyes, teeth, and ears again, but, rather than frightening, they are seductive. His eyes can watch her, his ears can hear her, and his teeth, well, we’ll leave that to the imagination.

Thus, rather than being tricked by the wolf, per the original tale, Little Red-Cap seeks him out, choosing to grow up. This is a ritual most girls (and I imagine many guys) will recognize: parading oneself, making oneself noticed, inhabiting that exhilarating vision of the self as attractive, “sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif.” And so he buys her a drink, her first.

She then feels the need to justify herself, saying, “You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry.” This line is tremendously important. Rhetorically, it rehearses a compressed internal rhyme. These patches of simple rhyme appearing throughout the poem perhaps reveal Little Red-Cap’s final vestiges of childhood rearing their head and maintain the consciousness that this was (at one time) a children’s tale. Then, too, it is crucial that poetry is the reason she chooses experience. Not the wolf, but an idea, a thought-structure, a compressed arrangement of words. Thus, we may meditate on what this reveals about experience. Perhaps she, like me (and perhaps you), finds poetry to be the passion of her life. I think that the answer is not so literal, though. Poetry's richness and challenge and mystery were perhaps alluring, or its individuality, or its energy. Perhaps becoming an adult is poetic, beautiful.

That she acknowledges the reason for becoming an adult shows that she accepts it is *her* choice. This choice is not lightly made, either. The next several lines demonstrate her acceptance of the darkness in the change, the difficulty changing.

After all, Little Red-Cap is a tale for children, so folding an allegory for growing-up into a traditional kid’s structure is somewhat genius.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Poem of the Week 1/9/2006: Elegy for Jane

Elegy for Jane

My Student, Thrown by a Horse

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing;
And the mold sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw;
Stirring the clearest water.
My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiny shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.

Theodore Roethke 1953

An elegy, as I am sure most of you know, is a poem written in memory of one who has died. I choose this particular elegy for its energy, precise images, and delicate tenderness. "Elegy for Jane" gracefully captures the real girl Jane; in 22 compact lines, we almost see this flesh-and-blood girl and the love she brought forth. In animating Jane, the poem allows us to recognize Jane's beloved characteristics in those around us. She is, like all of us, and individual with universal traits.

Roethke reminisces about her (yes I am muddling speaker/author) personally, leaving the universal recognition up to the natural images and the readers. The first line, "I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;" demonstrates a very personal and even intimate view of this girl. He regards the nape of her neck, connoting vulnerability, and talks of her curls as soft, delicate tendrils. The connection with plants here rehearses the consistent twining of man and nature. In the next line, Jane smiles like a pickerel, a fish with a wide, oblong grin. The assonance in "quick look" heightens the energy in the poem, which again appears consistently throughout the poem. This energy reflects Jane's energy, and makes the thought of her loss even sadder. As if a light has winked out in the sky.

The next several lines, "how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her, / And she balanced in the delight of her thought, / A wren, happy, tail into the wind, / Her song trembling the twigs and small branches" again display natural imagery and energy. Because it shifts almost fully into a natural metaphor, the poem's universality comes through especially clearly. Perhaps I should pause and explain why natural imagery is universalizing. Excepting a few cases, a wild animal is not named. That is, one salmon, to the human eye, looks no different than any other salmon. "Salmon" or "wren" or "tendril" is universal, encompassing all salmon, all wren, and all tendrils. The natural metaphors in "Elegy" are tailored for an individual, Jane, so they are at once broadly relevant and personally applicable. The choice of a wren gestures that Jane was light, energetic, and graceful. Even the word "wren" sounds small and nimble.

Jane doesn't just inhabit natural images, though; she works in harmony with them, evident in the lines "the leaves, their whispers turned to kissing; / And the mold sang in the bleached valleys under the rose." Here, the environment also expresses the love felt for Jane. It was everywhere, in the leaves, the brooks, the flowers and even the mold. For those good and bad, her presence delighted.

But she was not always effervescent. Roethke writes, "when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth, / Even a father could not find her." Her emotions were strong and clear; I believe that this characterization also makes her more real. She is a creature of pure emotion, sadness or happiness, which makes her easy to imagine and even empathize with. We all, I expect, experience straight emotions from time to time.

The speaker's affection begins to seep into the poem in the next lines, "My sparrow, you are not here, / Waiting like a fern, making a spiny shadow." Affection and nostalgia, really. Again, too, we note the tender, universal/personal images and Jane's bubbly grace. When Roethke writes, "If only I could nudge you from this sleep, / My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon," and I want to nudge her, too. I want to nudge everyone who has ever fallen. This poem, for me, is so beautifully and powerfully loving. And I suppose that an elegy should be a form of love poem, though I haven't read enough elegies to recommend examples or counterexamples. I like the idea of an elegy as a love poem.

The poem ends with a line that could be construed as problematic: with the implication that a father (male) or lover (stereotypically male) should have rights over remembering her. It sidesteps controversy, though, because the narrator is (arguably) male and her teacher. I think that he is only referring, in the end, to his possible position to her. He would usually love a girl because he is (a) her father or (b) her lover. How do we reconcile being neither of these things? Perhaps we don't have to, the poem suggests. Love exists outside our typical models. And indeed, it can be surprising to find that you love someone when you have no "right" to. My stepmother told me that she sometimes looks at a stranger working away at his life and imagines that he is her son. I found that so beautiful, and have tried it often. It's amazing how easy it is to love people, if you only see them as lovable. I try to look at girls as if they were one of my sisters or best friends. They become so clear and pure. I think that looking at Jane in this poem provides that same experience. She is a stranger, but looking at her through loving eyes, we love her as well. By seeing another that loves her, we may love her too, in a way. The narrator's affections, cloaked in natural imagery, guide us to affection and tenderness. Surprising, no?

Monday, January 02, 2006

Poem of the Week 1/2/2006: A Little Moonlight

A Little Moonlight

Given inconstancy, the resistless
affair that has been my body (as if
there were no place to go from anywhere except
deeper, into those spaces the hand makes by
tugging the flesh, where it is part-able,
more open, or as if I believed, utterly, what
legend says about violation — how it leads
to prophecy, the god enters the body, the mouth
cracks open, and a mad fluttering, which
is the future, fills the cave, which is
desire, luck and hazard, hazard and luck),

I should perhaps regret more. But it’s grown
so late: see how dark, outside?

Suspecting, even then,
that the best way to avoid being
broken by flaw would be to shape my life
around it — flaw coming slowly
to define the self, as shells make of the glass
that holds them a little kingdom
of sea — I followed him, and have only once
looked back. Oh, I contain him

as the lion’s chest contains the arrow
that death displaces, effect always mattering
more than cause: pull the arrow free —
brandish it. By now it must weigh
almost nothing . . .

I agree, to hope for a thing is to believe in it,
or at least to want to. When does belief
become expectation? Like committing
a crime, confessing to it, and thinking
confession might equal apology, mistaking
apology for to wipe clean away,
you turn your face to me. — What?

Trees in a wind. Their mixed
invitation of leaves flourishing as if unstoppable,
as if foliage were the greater part of it, the part
I could love best, or should learn to say I do
more often. Tell me why, when what I loved
from the start was how eventually each leaf must go.

Carl Phillips 2005

Starting a new year, intent is incredibly powerful. This week is a clear opportunity to reimagine, to say the things that have never been said, to look forward. And so with this Poem of the Week, I want to tell you all why I write an extra essay each week and offer you a poem that reflects the thoughtfulness occassioned by a new year. I will start with my intent. Number one, I have this blog because I enjoy it. It keeps me working through my Norton Anthology, helps me with my writing, and provides a low-pressure environment in which I can explore poetry. It's so easy to get caught up in whatever trivialities pull me away from my passion. The PotW helps me stay engaged.

More importantly, though, I want to share poetry. At a New Year's party yesterday, a man told me that he couldn't remember the last time he'd read a poem. I was so sad that I wanted to take a book off of the shelf right then and there and read one to him, but I supposed that presumptious and forward. Perhaps I should have, though; he was an english major in college long ago. It saddens me to hear to hear how little poetry most people have read. I of course don't expect most to feel as I do, but people don't have to totally comprehend or love an art form to appreciate its beauty. I hope that the PotW helps you register poetry's deepness and richness. I hope that it gives you a chance to slow down and contemplate in your busy life. I hope that it provides you with an extra spot of beauty. I hope that it makes poetry less scary. Even in some of my upper level lit classes, people were at a loss when confronted with a poem. But poetry ought not be scary. I hope that you can see that exploring a poem is as simple as slowing down, noticing the words on the page, and asking questions. A poem is not scary, but beautiful. I hope that it gives you some tools to approach a poem with, even if those tools are thought structures, ways of thinking about poems.

I originally hoped that it would be a forum for many to discuss, but I think that I have discouraged this by writing such long responses. Comment if you'd like, but I think that I instead hope merely that you react. This is not an academic blog wherein we are having a thesis-oriented, utterly informed discussion. The PotWs are my personal thoughts about a poem (and other ramblings that perhaps provoke you. Though long-winded, I intend it as a gift of beauty and an offering of what I love. All together, I hope that the Poem of the Week is a personal, stimulating, free-form, beautiful ramble for you and me.

So that done, we have the chance to look at this narrator's long, beautiful ramble. I see this poem as a collection of musings. The three section structure makes it light and pensive. Rather than preaching, it merely wonders, explores. I think that many can probably relate to these kinds of thoughts, for the narrator reflects on flaws, spirituality, hope and most of all growth. I get the sense here that these are little trains of thought that the narrator somehow chose to put into a poem form. They are ripples in the speaker's stream of consciousness, important enough to set apart in a poem. They appear to come from different sense of time; I suppose, then, that the question is whether they achieve unity or not. Let us look at each alone, and explore any sense of unity at the end.

The first section has a marvelous syntactical structure. Without the parentheses, it would read, "Given inconstancy, the resistless / affair that has been my body... I should perhaos regret more. But it's grown / so late: see how dark, outside?" He muses that he ought to perhaps regret more because life has been bumpy, not as expected. His response to his own question is so casual, so effortless that it reminds me of a dear, old friend so comfortable he doesn't need anything other than metaphors. It's too late to regret anything, he sighs.

If the frame-sentence structure is so casual, then, the parenthetic lines' strength makes them almost tangible. Indeed, the images unify emotional and erotic bodies, powerfully coiling body and soul. The first "as if" postulate, read with the body equating emotions, tells of acute introspection, as if looking inside is a physical act, pulling apart the flesh to see where the blood is flowing. This resonates deeply with me, for I think that introspection is difficult and essential and as literally vital as pulling apart one's flesh.

The second "as if" again splits between an emotional and a physical body, this time moving into a more erotic realm. By using the words "violation," "cave," and "desire," Phillips is almost explicitly sexual. The sexuality animates spirituality, though, again unifying body and soul. The violation brings on prophecy, which, god-like, "fills the cave." Thus, a mystic experience is as strong as rape, as climax, as the deepest physical intimacy.

I have a hard time reconciling these postulates with inconstancy. I suppose that introspection and spirituality are inconstant, for they have to be struggled with daily. This explanation isn't quite satisfactory to me; if you have any ideas, feel free to post a comment or email me!

The second part is my favorite for its empowerment. The speaker discusses how to deal with flaws, and his frank, refreshing answer is to embrace them. Deeply. Flaws, he implies, provide the structure over which we can grow and heal. Flaws are thus a kind of skeleton, but we must recognize them in order to develop around them. He confidently says that we, like shells in a fishtank, can make a "kingdom / of sea" by seeing the container, the flaw, as beautiful. Linking flaws and a fishtank, too, implies that a flaw is a sort of container, and, true, flaws often limit. Imperfections like fear, anger, defensiveness and more insulate us from one-another. Indeed, "limitation" is in the thesaurus under flaw.

The syntax, true to stream-of-consciousness, interrupts this section as well. Without the dashes, its first stanza reads, "suspecting, even then, that the best way to avoid being broken by a lfaw would be to shape my life around it, I followed him, and have only once looked back." Who is this him? I suggest that it is perhaps an inside advisor who makes mistakes, what my mom would call "the right mistake." It strikes me now that following one's flaws is another way of being true to oneself. Thus, the narrator talks of living and acting from truth. There are few greater lessons.

I love that this section is so empowered; the speaker equates himself to a lion, and bravely announces that one ought to brandish the flaw once one has internalized it. Be proud of what you are, good and bad! Brandishing a flaw also implies owning it and controlling it. When you go to wave the flaw to the world, then, the flaw is probably diminished. It is humble, too, expressed in the ellipses' trailing off and the fragmented syntax. I love this stanza; it convinces me that I would want to be friends with this speaker, whoever he is.

Beginning, "I agree to hope for a thing is to believe in it, / or at least to want to," the third section addresses the logical leaps we make in hoping, believing, apologizing, and redeeming. I write "leap" because these transformations are perhaps problematic. The speaker has a good point, after all. I know that I have jumped from belief to expectation before; this poem articulates a normal human tendency. By putting words to this action, "A Little Moonlight" rehearses another of poetry's functions. When it puts words to varying human tendencies, emotions, situations etc., it makes us aware of them, allowing us to move forward.

I want to finally notice, then, the great exhale ending this poem. The narrator's quiet thoughts about trees look with love and sweetness on death, on endings, on passing away, and I find this so appropriate for the beginning of a new year. We all have the chance to love our own little lives and selves even as they are passing away, or perhaps because they are. For me, I feel that I am growing, growing bigger, growing older, growing wiser and happier and sadder all at once; I am - we all are - growing away from who we used to be, but that is the thing to love most. Just like the beloved leaves that will tumble off of the tree, so we are tumbling into something new every second, and we can love the fluttering leaves and we can love the gusting wind. Love. The word falls onto the page.