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Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the Same Poem: Mountain Time


Here is the poem selected for the 2008 "On the Same Poem" program (see earlier post, below this one). Students, teachers, readers of all ages and interests, if you have any questions or comments about the poem, please send them to me via the "comments" below.


MOUNTAIN TIME


News travels slowly up here
in the mountains , our narrow
roads twisting for days, maybe years,
till we get where we’re going,
if we ever do. Even if some lonesome message
should make it through Deep Gap
or the fastness of Thunderhead, we’re not obliged
to believe it’s true, are we? Consider
the famous poet, minding her post
at the Library of Congress, who
shrugged off the question of what we’d be
reading at century’s end: “ By the year 2000
nobody will be reading poems.” Thus she
prophesied. End of that
interview! End of the world
as we know it. Yet, how can I fault
her despair, doing time as she was
in a crumbling Capitol, sirens
and gunfire the nights long, the Pentagon’s
stockpile of weapons stacked higher
and higher. No wonder the books
stacked around her began to seem relics.
No wonder she dreamed her own bones
dug up years later, tagged in a museum somewhere
in the Midwest: American Poet--Extinct Species.


Up here in the mountains
we know what extinct means. We’ve seen
how our breath on a bitter night
fades like a ghost from the window glass.
We know the wolf’s gone.
The panther. We’ve heard the old stories
run down, stutter out
into silence. Who knows where we’re heading?
All roads seem to lead
to Millennium, dark roads with drop-offs
we can’t plumb. It’s time to be brought up short
now with the tale-teller’s Listen: There once lived
a woman named Delphia
who walked through these hills teaching children
to read. She was known as a quilter
whose hand never wearied, a mother
who raised up two daughters to pass on
her words like a strong chain of stitches.
Imagine her sitting among us,
her quick thimble moving along these lines
as if to hear every word striking true
as the stab of her needle through calico.
While prophets discourse about endings,
don’t you think she’d tell us the world as we know it
keeps calling us back to beginnings?
This labor to make our words matter
is what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time, let’s say.
A blind stitch,
that grips the edges
of what’s left, the ripped
scraps and remnants, whatever
won’t stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt’s falling to pieces.


From BLACK SHAWL, LSU Press



1 comment:

TJ said...

This poem was fantastic! i really liked how it trasitioned from the imagery of nature to the sybolism of the quilt lady. It relates the peace and advice of the world today that each, nature and the quilt lady, can express to us. Neither involves the worries of "the end" or what the world is coming to as the prophets do. Our surrounding environement, as most see it, involves so many stereotypical mindsets and war natured beings that no one takes the effort or time to see "the world as it is today" but only what the world might become.