Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

I'm currently working in Mt. Laurel, NJ,1 and one of the many joys of working in Mt. Laurel, NJ2 is my reacquaintance with red-wing blackbirds!

This recollects to me Wallace Steven's poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", which I shamelessly reproduce here verbatim:4

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

A couple of notes about this poem: first, as I understand it, it was actually about red-wing blackbirds as they are common in Connecticut, and, tying into the first note is, second, my high-school compilation text where I first read this poem provided a footnote that "Haddam" in the exhortation to the thin men is, indeed, Haddam, Connecticut.

Take a moment from your busy schedule today and reread this poem. Hold fast to the center.

1No, I do know why, but, yes, I can't believe it, either.
2It is my duty as pater familias, priest and king of this family, to "count it all joy"3
3Trust another blogger to snag that quote (James 1:2-3) for their blog-stead:
4As the poem is too precious simply to provide a link with the Quixotic hope that my readership will "follow the link"; but here the link is, for completeness' sake:


Diane said...

You have just successfully endeared yourself to my literary mother. This was the clincher after that "Isn't that Beethoven's Eroica Symphony?"

Anonymous said...

"Trust another blogger to snag that quote (James 1:2-3) for their blog-stead"

Infinite monkeys on infinite keyboards.


Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

Eve said...

Poem or no poem, you are dear to me. But when I read this blog, it crossed my mind, oh, so he's into poem, too! Not only the computer talk I know nothing about, but which I still enjoy reading because it came from my genius son-in-law (heh, heh!)

It felt good, honest...