The City Limits
When you consider the radiance, that it does not withhold
itself but pours its abundance without selection into every
nook and cranny not overhung or hidden; when you consider
that birds' bones make no awful noise against the light but
lie low in the light as in a high testimony; when you consider
the radiance, that it will look into the guiltiest
swervings of the weaving heart and bear itself upon them,
not flinching into disguise or darkening; when you consider
the abundance of such resource as illuminates the glow-blue
bodies and gold-skeined wings of flies swarming the dumped
guts of a natural slaughter or the coil of shit and in no
way winces from its storms of generosity; when you consider
that air or vacuum, snow or shale, squid or wolf, rose or lichen,
each is accepted into as much light as it will take, then
the heart moves roomier, the man stands and looks about, the
leaf does not increase itself above the grass, and the dark
work of the deepest cells is of a tune with May bushes
and fear lit by the breadth of such calmly turns to praise.
A.R. Ammons 1971
This poem almost literally leaves me breathless. On one level, the phrases' sheer length is exhausting, even when read silently, while on another, its heady positivity... okay. I have to describe how it feels: that click of breath when you jump into the Puget Sound. The lungs beat like a heart, just for a second, and the breath pauses outside your mouth, waiting for your body to adjust to the water. A wondrous hiccup of breath, if you will.
The form is as overflowing as the content in this poem; the one reinforces the other. Ammons does not wax positive about everything, though. He includes a strong dose of realism that validates his point. The poem attains an aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific balance. Alright, let's start at the beginning before I ramble myself (and you all) to sleep.