Saturday, 25 October 2008
The Jagellonian University, Cracow
The weather is just turning cold as I am about to head off to Poland. C, like an angel, has been helping with, nay leading, nay all but solo conducting, a purge of my desk. It's great. I can see surfaces. It's like moving from a basement in Manhattan to the Gardens of Versailles. Life is clarity. Life is geometry. Life is plains and planes. Why, this could last for days! (At least till I get back from Frankfurt.)
I have had some more roadkill poems (dreadful term, I know) pointed out to me and some sent. Here is an appropriate one pointed out by an anonymous poster via email.
The Love of Travellers
(for Doris, Sandra and Sheryl)
At the rest stop on the way to Mississippi
we found the butterfly mired in the oil slick;
its wings thick
and blunted. One of us, tender in the finger tips,
smoothed with a tissue the oil
that came off only a little;
the oil-smeared wings like lips colored with lipstick
blotted before a kiss.
So delicate the cleansing of the wings
I thought the color soft as watercolors would wash off
under the method of her mercy for something so slight
and graceful, injured, beyond the love of travellers.
It was torn then, even after her kindest work,
the almost-moth exquisite charity could not mend
what weighted the wing, melded with it,
then ruptured it in release.
The body of the thing lifted out of its place
between the washed wings.
Imagine the agony of a self separated by gentlest repair.
“Should we kill it?” One of us said. And I said yes.
But none of us had the nerve.
We walked away, the last of the oil welding the butterfly
to the wood of the picnic table.
The wings stuck out and quivered when wind went by.
Whoever found it must have marveled at this.
And loved it for what it was and
I think, meticulous mercy is the work of travellers,
and leaving things as they are
punishment or reward.
I have died for the smallest things.
Nothing washes off.
Nothing washes off, is a very good line indeed, as is that reference to meticulous mercy (what other kind is there?) and being tender in the fingertips. I didn't know the work of Angela Jackson. Now I will find out more.
Life has been so hectic it has been hard finding time to think about anything other than the immediate and the impending. In the meantime, here is a street map of the pear-shaped centre of Krakow.
I am aiming for the Florianska near the top. I shall have one day, or part of a day, to walk about town. The picture on top is the university where the Herbert conference is, partly, happening. Winter coat on. (Then Frankfurt, and with a bit of luck, still posting.)