Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hudson's Geese


Here is a poem for Valentine's Day: one of my favorite love poems, by Leslie Norris. My favorite lines are these, so magnificently understated: "And what / would he do, the point / of his circling gone?" I love the geometry in there, too: the point, the circle. The careful, analytic precision of it is so incongruous and yet so wrenching. And I also love the surprise in "falling through an air / turned instantly to winter." As if the winter---approaching all the time, surely---had only coalesced into reality in that one moment. 

Leslie Norris used to say he liked to work on a poem until it was so compact that each word was like a brick set tight in a wall; each so sparingly and carefully chosen that the whole poem would collapse without it. I think this poem achieves that perfectly. It speaks with such economy, yet such truth. 

Hudson's Geese
“… I have, from time to time, related some incident of my boyhood, and these are contained in various chapters in The Naturalist in La Plata, Birds and Man, Adventures among Birds …."
W.H. Hudson, in Far Away And Long Ago 
Hudson tells us of them,
the two migrating geese,
she hurt in the wing
indomitably walking
the length of a continent,
and he wheeling above
calling his distress.
They could not have lived.
Already I see her wing
scraped past the bone
as she drags it through rubble.
A fox, maybe, took her
in his snap jaws. And what
would he do, the point
of his circling gone?
The wilderness of his cry
falling through an air
turned instantly to winter
would warn the guns of him.
If a fowler dropped him,
let it have been quick,
pellets hitting brain
and heart so his weight
came down senseless,
and nothing but his body
to enter the dog's mouth. 
— Leslie Norris

3 comments:

  1. I love poetry but that one was a little sad for me. Yes, excellent use of words. Yes, amazing imagery. Still sad.

    I guess you never claimed that it wasn't.

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  2. You're right. It's tight and brilliantly wrenching. Stronger than most things I've read - not as wistful and diffident as Cummings and so much more directly human and ripe than Elliot. It hurts me too much for right now. I don't want to read it again. Stately. Inevitable. But not a hopeless end. I have never been interested in Leslie Norris because I ended up leaving the department with disappointment and even resentment - so many there who thought they said so much, not realizing that their strongest message was of their own need to impress. To be deep. So I thought he was one of those.

    I guess he wasn't.

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  3. K: oh, no no. Leslie Norris was one of the kindest and most humble men I've ever met. And if ever someone was entitled NOT to be humble, he was. :) I really loved him. I wish you could have known him too. You know who else I loved in that department? Steve Walker. Did you know him?

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