Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stanley Kunitz - March 24, 2010

I used to imagine him

coming from the house, like Merlin

strolling with important gestures

through the garden

where everything grow so thickly

where birds sing, little snakes lie

on the boughs, thinking of nothing

but their own good lives...

But now I know more

about the great wheel of growth,

and decay, and rebirth,

and know my vision for a falsehood...

I see him on his knees...

knowing that the hour of fulfillment

is buried in years of patience-

yet willing to labor like that

on the mortal wheel.

On, what good it does the heart

to know it isn't magic!

Like the human child I am

I rush to imitate...

I think of him there

raking and trimming, stirring up

those sheets of fire

between the smothering weights of earth,

the wild and shapeless air.

The mortal wheel gives us meaning that magic would not. If someone could wave a wand and we could be done with death, would we still make gardens? I don' t know about you, but I imagine if we had evolved or will evolve where death and decay will be a rarity, we'll find a way to make meaning. We always do. Perhaps this is where the magic lies, that somehow we co-orginated with other life and that over the long arc of the years, of a species, something wondrous occurs. Thinking of how little I know about this earth as a garden, I wonder who is really the master gardener? Could it not be the little pansy that brings the human to task?

What is your work over the long years? What seems like daily work to you, but to others seems like magic?


  1. LoraKim, in answer to your two questions, I am afraid I must answer, "Nothing" to number one, followed by "Nothing" to number two. And perhaps there is time yet to find my gift. We shall see.

    As to the poem - She wrote this before Stanley Kunitz died, so the transformation in her view of him was not his death...I wonder what internal process made her decide that he creates by hard daily work as opposed to magic? It is easy for some to elevate those whose work they admire. For whatever reason, I have never done that, but I think I understand the process, and the need to do it. Stanley Kunitz keeps coming up for me - for example, he was Marie Howe's mentor,and I really value a lot of her writings - and that's often a sign for me that I should explore further. T

  2. I couldn't answer your questions either. I sort of focused on "Like the human child that I am, I rush to imitate."

    I felt she was describing how as small children we see it as magic - it just happens. As an adult she can see beyond the magic and knows how much constant work it takes. The garden is sort of his legacy and she feels she must imitate to have a legacy to leave before she dies. All that work will be rewarded with the peace that death will bring.