...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

August 18, 2004

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

Here is a lovely, alliterative, difficult, and very spiritual poem by one-time Golden Bear, Archibald Randolph Ammons.

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.

i had to read this one a bunch of times before i "got" it. Until i did, the beauty of the rhythm and alliteration kept me going back. Notice the scientific metaphors. Ammons had a chemistry degree from Wake Forest and his interest in science is obvious in this poem. He also studied English Literature at Cal Berkeley as a grad student, although i do not think he earned a degree.

This poem's message is definitely spiritual and contemplative. Whether it's also a religious metaphor is up to the reader. For me it is, but i can just as easily see how it wouldn't be for some.

Here's a short bio of the poet, who died in February, 2001.

Posted by annika, Aug. 18, 2004 |
Rubric: Poetry


Hurrah! I had never heard of Ammons, but this is very fine.

Posted by: Hugo on Aug. 18, 2004

What about Milosz?!

Posted by: Scof on Aug. 19, 2004