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About this Poem 

“Thoreau was, among so many other things, a marvelous walker; he used walking not only as a mode of transportation but also as mode of observation—it allowed him to see his world, not just with his eyes, but with his entire body. This piece is from a series that tries to capture the rhythm of that intimate engagement.”

—Cole Swensen

from "Thoreau"

Cole Swensen, 1955

 

In the essay “A Winter Walk,” which predated the more famous essay “Walking”
by a few years, Thoreau paid particular attention to the astonishing array of whites

from fog to snow to frost to the crystals growing outward on threads of light. The
fact that white is separately known. That it is its own wildness, entirely exterior,

like all weather you notice is a version of an open room coming through
the wind in prisms. White holds light in a suspended state, unleashing it later

across a field of snow or a sheet of water at just the right angle to make the surface
a solid, and on we go walking. Goethe’s Theory of Colors depicted each one

as an intense zone of human activity overflowing its object into feeling there is
a forest through which something white is flying through a wash of white, which is

the presence of all colors until red, for instance, is needed for a bird or green
for a world.

Copyright @ 2014 by Cole Swensen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2014.

Copyright @ 2014 by Cole Swensen. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 2, 2014.

Cole Swensen

Cole Swensen

Her books include Ours: poems on the gardens of Andre Le Notre (University of California Press, 2008); The Glass Age, (Alice James Books, 2007); The Book of a Hundred Hands

by this poet

poem
      noctes illustratas
      (the night has houses)
                         and the shadow of the fabulous
                     broken into handfuls--these
can be placed at regular intervals,
                             candles
walking down streets at times eclipsed by trees.


Certain cells, it's
poem

erodes the line between being and place becomes the place of being time and so
the house turns in the snow is why a ghost always has the architecture of a storm
The architect tore down room after room until the sound stopped. A ghost is one
among the ages at the edge of a cliff empty sails on the bay

poem

 

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