22 July 2013

Poem of the Week 2013/30

Orchards in July

Waters from cold springs
and glittering minerals
tirelessly wander.
Patient, unceasing,
they overcome granite, layers
of hungry gravel, iridescent
precincts of clay. If they abandon
themselves to the black
roots it's only to go
up, as high as possible
through wells hidden
under the bark of fruit trees. Through
the green touched with gray, of leaves,
fallen petals of white
flowers with rosy edges,
apples heavy with sweet redness
and their bitterish seeds.
O, waters from cold
springs and glittering
minerals! You are awaited
by a cirrus with a fluid,
sunny outline
and by an abyss of blue
which has been rinsed
in the just wind.

Zbigniew Machej, translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass

I wanted to slip this in before July slipped away. There's a nice circle-of-life thing going on here; the waters and minerals seem almost more alive than the trees they pass through on their way from the earth up to the clouds. The poet ends with a little zinger, the piquant adjective "just" – what makes an impersonal force like wind "just"? Perhaps it's exactly because it is impersonal, doing what it does impartially. The adjective closes out the cycle with a sense that things are doing what they're meant to be doing; it's sort of a more sciencey version of the feeling described by another poet as "God's in His Heaven, All's right with the world."

Machej is a twentieth-century Polish poet. This poem is from the anthology A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czeslaw Milosz.


Unknown said...

Or as a science teacher would put it: transpiration to evaporation to condensation to precipitation. I like Machej's way of saying it much better.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

But what are the chances of most students comprehending either way?

Michael Strickland said...

It's all magic as far as I'm concerned (said one of the ignorant students, namely me).

Patrick J. Vaz said...

We'll accept your awestruck sense of wonder, along with your perfect attendance record, as an adequate substitute for actual comprehension. Passing grade for Mr Strickland!