We get through most days managing to see
hardly anything. Yet here's a sturdy
library table covered in blue leather.
A rolled-up map precariously perches
on a pile of books. Two saucers hold
little pools of pigment: yellow, blue.
A two-tiered paintbox gapes. In a glass of water
three thirsty brushes rest.
She rose abruptly
and left the room by a door we cannot see,
whether or not to return to the solitary
task of sitting down to look and wait
is an open question. Forever interrupted,
we sit down, stand up, and sit down again,
and get through most days managing to see
hardly anything. Yet here's a table.
Planned for a glass pavilion
on a knoll beside a lake
but held instead in a shadowy barn,
what ceremony in the rain
did I attend in--was it June?
One event succeeds another.
Was it in a dream that I
accompanied an elderly
poet on a southbound train,
knowing we might not meet again?
Funeral, wedding, graduation:
one event succeeds another.
Show up and participate,
then go home and mull it over.
What is this initiation?
Padding along the grassy ground,
barefoot celebrants make no sound.
In a floodlit atrium
flower girls romp past their bedtime.
Yawning waiters clear the wine.
Not the full silence of a sun-warmed furrow,
countless minute processes at work
tunneling, ramifying, reaching out;
intentions, connections, and adjustments:
make a note; look up;
smile; meet an eye; then turn back to the task,
the blessing of the sun, the heat of thought,
but empty silence. Intermittent wind
sighs around the corner of a crumbling
stucco wall that straggles
between the last few houses and a sea
no color; a horizon
where past and future in one flat line meet,
gaze a diluted blue, lips firmly shut.
Rachel Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at the Newark campus of Rutgers University and the author of numerous books of poetry and essays, most recently The River of Forgetfulness (poems 2006) and Classics(poems 2007). She is coeditor of The Greek Poets: Greek poetry in Translation from Homer to the Present, due out from Norton at the end of 2009.