Monday, October 02, 2006

Poem of the Week 10/2/2006: The Season of Phantasmal Peace

The Season of Phantasmal Peace

Then all the nations of birds lifted together
the huge net of the shadows of this earth
in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it. They lifted up
the shadow of long pines down trackless slopes,
the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant on a city still--
the net rising soundless as night, the birds' cries soundless, until
there was no longer dusk, or season, decline, or weather,
only this passage of phantasmal light
that not the narrowest shadow dared to sever.

And men could not see, looking up, what the wild geese drew,
what the ospreys trailed behind them in silvery ropes
that flashed in the icy sunlight; they could not hear
battalions of starlings waging peaceful cries,
bearing the net higher, covering this world
like the vines of an orchard, or a mother drawing
the trembling gauze over the trembling eyes
of a child fluttering to sleep;
it was the light
that you will see at evening on the side of a hill
in yellow October, and no one hearing knew
what change had brought into the raven's cawing,
the killdeer's screech, the ember-circling chough*
such an immense, soundless, and high concern
for the fields and cities where the birds belong,
except it was their seasonal passing, Love,
made seasonless, or, from the high privilege of their birth,
something brighter than pity for the wingless ones
below them who shared dark holes in windows and in houses,
and higher they lifted the net with soundless voices
above all change, betrayals of falling suns,
and this season lasted one moment, like the pause
between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long.

Derek Walcott 1981

I have a new goal for the Poem of the Week. Instead of writing the extensive close-reads I have been doing, I hope to write about an interesting or important theme I pick up in the poem - a paragraph or two - and leave it at that. I do not like that I have left this blog so sadly unattended, for the wonderful poems are hung alone and unexamined. So, the next part of this is coming either late tonight or tomorrow morning.

The title indicates that this poem is about an illusory, ephemeral, or perhaps spiritual peace, introducing some of the central themes within the poem: time, etheriality, and peace. The central image for this poem - birds lifting a net of shadows to leave the earth in absolute light - implies the

No comments: