Friday, January 16, 2009

Poem of the Week 11/17/2008: Pura Vida

Pura Vida

(¡Pura vida! —Costa Rican phrase for "O.K." or "Great!")

Such heat! It brings the brain back to its basic blank.
Small, recurrent events become the daily news—
the white-nosed coati treading the cecropia's
bending thin branches like sidewalks in the sky,
the scarlet-rumped tanager flitting like a spark
in the tinder of dank green, the nodding palm leaves
perforated like Jacquard cards in a code of wormholes,
the black hawk skimming nothingness over and over.

What does the world's wide brimming mean, with hunger
the unstated secret, dying the proximate reality?
Con mucho gusto—the muchness extends to the stars,
as wet and numerous as larvae underground
where the ants in their preset patterns scurry and nurture,
and the queen, immobilized, pours forth her eggs
in the dark. We are far from oaks and stoplights,
from England's chill classrooms and Tuscany's paved hills.

For thought is a stridulation, an insect sizzling,
knit of the moment's headlines and temperate-zone quips,
viable in the debris of our rotting educations,
that thatch where peer-groups call each to each in semes
ecosystematically. Great God Himself
wilts with a rise in temperature, a drop in soil acidity,
a new language in its grimacing opacity.
The brain's dry buzz revives, a bit, as evening falls.

John Updike

I like to think of this poem as a heat-induced outpouring of thought--all of the strange words and categorizations of trees, insects, as well as other unusual vocabulary (stridulation), seem to erupt out of the speaker's brain in the heat, causing a special simmering contemplation about the world--the con much gusto of it all, the thoughts "viable in the debris of our rotting educations."

Though I must say the real reason for choosing the poem was the middle paragraph, and my great fondness for John Updike's poetry.

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