Two Views

- 1947-
         1 
Into the laterals and faults of strata 
Whose linear seams are like memory,
Water wades its way, settling matters
In small aquifers, incised meanders;
Then floods over a landscape that teaches 
Plains are only so much sediment,
Silt the slow ocean of any reach.
 
Think travertine and serpentine mantel-
high in living rooms, or kames and tills
Scattered like loose change, the marvelous marble
Of dolomite and metamorphic rock,
Or granite now as coolingly aloof 
As someday overhead . . . small seismic self
Feeling a gust rattle years through the roof.
 
Meanwhile, there’s still the phone and mail, the door,
And the reassuring fact the fault’s not yours
As you’ve not budged. Not even the cat crosses the floor.
Outside, the world’s continuum of nests
Is full of cries announcing differences,
While mineshaft down, the brittle shale of self
Waits, certain of its own circumferences. 
 
One is colossus of one’s growing doubt,
With ideas like past presidents profiled
And floating enthusiastic shouts
From old elections, conclusions of the will,
The dehydrations of mere permanence. 
But high wing over shadow, how the world
Doubles in its transience. 
 
          2
Resplendently fragile, more color than weight,
As agile of flight as of changed habitat,
The birds are choric in the fate
Of their varieties; predictable
Of habit and Darwinian choices,
Myriad on one scale, and on another 
Essential and of but one in all. And voices,
 
This side liquid whistles followed by a trill,
While there, a series of clear carolings,
Then the rapid whinnies of descending will
While somewhere overhead a finch attempts 
All notes at once, as though to summarize
The way limbs ladder up, step green to blue 
So shadows rise.
 
But year on year, wing beat and season,
Fattened or starved, silent or full 
Of migratory sass, one reason
Brings each back, whether the same or no—
Warbler and thrush, sparrow and finch, wren, jay,
Thrasher and dove, tanager, waxwing, owl, crow, hawk . . . 
They light, feed, breed, migrate or stay.
 
Calendar wise in their brief histories
And vulnerable as any emigrants 
Searching to eat, they are geographies 
Of days, convergences of now, 
And needed if for nothing more than their arrival
When, worthy that again we crane to see, 
They bring survival.

More by Wyatt Prunty

Last Century

Last century we took a lot of shots
Of what we did, framing things for Look and Life
So we could see us and our lot Riveting the lattice of a skyline
Or walking the I beams of infinite rooms
Over Manhattan, Cleveland, Washington—
          Oh elevated light.
 
We were amassing works—bridges and dams,
Ike’s interstates, highrises; raising tons
Out of a continent unfolding by
Mountain and pit, plain and gradient river,
The convex sky bottling cirrus highs
And the steep cumuli of moody weather,
          Oh century of light.
 
Back then we were stout realists working out
All manner of the world as one-to-one,
The aerials that Margaret Bourke-White got
Of factories and bombed-out towns,
Also the gaunt subtractive stares by Evans,
Whose dust bowl poor became our luminous 
          Internal weather. 
 
And then at Buchenwald there were those faces
Of ourselves—fed guards, starved Poles and Jews,
The citizens of Weimar just trucked in
Bearing the stares of deformed children,
As now our lenses focused on the krill
And undertow of the swallowing real
          Weather of enlightenment.
 
Add in atomic white, the napalm blind . . .
An overbright disequilibrium
Had settled in, a kind of countermind,
Blind as those guards at Buchenwald, darkroom
And looking up, gashed faces wide with fear,
All interrogatives frozen where
          Someone holds a light
 
For focusing Margaret Bourke-White;
While the two guards, deserving or not, stripped
To bloody underwear, still looking up
In horror at what’s coming next, hear "Pop!"
Thanks to the flash, so everyone will see
Us taking our turn at victory,
          Oh century.

Mole

For weeks he’s tunneled his intricate need
Through the root-rich, fibrous, humoral dark,
Buckling up in zagged illegibles
The cuneiforms and cursives of a blind scribe. 
 
Sleeved by soft earth, a slow reach knuckling, 
Small tributaries open from his nudge—
Mild immigrant, bland isolationist,
Berm builder edging the runneling world.
 
But now the snow, and he’s gone quietly deep,
Nuzzling through a muzzy neighborhood
Of dead-end-street, abandoned cul-de-sac,
And boltrun from a dead-leaf, roundhouse burrow.
 
May he emerge four months from this as before,
Myopic master of the possible,
Wise one who understands prudential ground,
Revisionist of all things green;
 
So when he surfaces, lumplike, bashful,
Quizzical as the flashbulb blind who wait
For color to return, he’ll nose our green-
rich air with the imperative poise of now.