It is late at night, cold and damp The air is filled with tobacco smoke. My brain is worried and tired. I pick up the encyclopedia, The volume GIC to HAR, It seems I have read everything in it, So many other nights like this. I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak, Listening to the long rattle and pound Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance. Suddenly I remember Coming home from swimming In Ten Mile Creek, Over the long moraine in the early summer evening, My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud. I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse, And instantly and clearly the revelation Of a song of incredible purity and joy, My first rose-breasted grosbeak, Facing the low sun, his body Suffused with light. I was motionless and cold in the hot evening Until he flew away, and I went on knowing In my twelfth year one of the great things Of my life had happened. Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek. On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive. And I am on the other side of the continent Ten years in an unfriendly city.
From The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth by Kenneth Rexroth. Copyright © 2002 by Kenneth Rexroth. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.