Monday, February 21, 2011
A Poem... A longtime favorite: The Changes
by Robert Pinsky (from The Figured Wheel)
Even at sea the bodies of the unborn and the dead
Interpenetrate at peculiar angles. In a displaced channel
The crew of a tanker float by high over the heads
Of a village of makers of flint knives, and a woman
In one round hut on a terrace dreams of her grandsons
Floating through the blue sky on a bubble of black oil
Calling her in the unknown rhythms of diesel engines to come
Lie down and couple. On the ship, three different sailors
Have a brief revery of dark, furry shanks, and one resolves
To build when he gets home a kind of round shrine or gazebo
In the small terraced garden of his house in a suburb.
In the garden, bees fumble at hydrangeas blue as crockery
While four children giggle playing School in the round gazebo.
(To one side, the invisible shaved heads of six priests
Bob above the garden's earth as they smear ash on their chests,
Trying to dance away a great epidemic; afterwards one priest,
The youngest, founds a new discipline based on the ideals
Of childlike humility and light-heartedness and learning.)
One of the sailor's children on his lunch hour years later
Writes on a napkin a poem about blue hydrangeas, bees
And a crockery pitcher. And though he is killed in a war
And the poem is burned up unread on a mass pyre with his body,
The separate molecules of the poem spread evenly over the globe
In a starlike precise pattern, as if a geometer had mapped it.
Overhead, passengers in planes cross and recross in the invisible
Ordained lanes of air traffic—some of us in the traverse
Passing through our own slightly changed former and future bodies,
Seated gliding along the black lines printed on colored maps
In the little pouches at every seat, the webs of routes bunched
To the shapes of beaks or arrowheads at the black dots of the cities.