Another poem from Without Paradise:


                             after A. R. Ammons

There’s a small hill in the tall grass in the backyard
that’s a perfect pillow. Summer’s my lazy time if lazy’s
understood the way I mean it: wagging fingers, dirty

looks be damned. Implied utility’s a constant
in a view, even up through birdshook foliage
or looking at clodhopping robins hunting worms,

spotting a split-second rabbit, or reflecting
on the house that costs so much to live in (nothing
much: 2BR, bath, eat-in kitch, den, lvng rm):

nice portion of an acre though and privacy preserved
by hemlock hedges, cedar, and rhododendron:
comfortable terrain around the nest: good sleeping.

Yet like everything else alive I have competitors
and predators (creditors): presently I carry a balance
due on several past accounts: their statements, in-

voices they call them, flimsy tissues, flush with alarm
at repercussions, service interruptions, spotty
ratings, garnishings, and heavy levies on extra time

and on my quietude. My neighbor’s mower has the power
of a motorcycle and its hypertense demeanor, growling
at a distance, makes the stiff grass on my sweaty arms

stop itching: now it’s a delicate tickle. Why do choices
seem to come in twos? I don’t want to go anywhere
or do anything right now although a bright idea

might occur to me watching a squirrel in the oak
lie full-length on a limb and stretch out like a cat,
or staring into the effulgent redscape of my eyelids

(where the will is situated, surely) with the bright sun
free a while between the slowly counterearthwise clouds

and I’ll get up and do it then or go there.

1 Comment

  1. I've been living with this poem for several weeks now, or rather it has been living in me — or both, since Richard's poem is a living thing, not a cancer but a “self” (perhaps that's not the right word) that is an extension of my self. Anyway, I've come to know the poem as a symbolic poem, from the “small hill” (like a tunnel in Murakami, like a grave) to the sun “free awhile” . . . Richard uses loose syntax to create synapses that coordinate aspects of being, reaching into the unknowable. At the same time, there's a sort of literal or plain reading, full of worldly “stuff” and that's what first intrigued me. Yet Richard frames the stuff with philosophical categories that lead one to larger readings. This is not the place for a thorough reading of this poem, which is full of grace notes that defy mimesis and yet pay respects to a larger order. Read it with Stevens in mind, or Rilke.

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