Picked up a few more books recently. My bookshelf is getting mighty overloaded, but I can’t help myself. I, Debby, am a tree killer and what often feels like a lone dystopian resistor.
Of the new additions, I got another (my third!) collection of Kay Ryan. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the turn of phrase “the palm at the end of the mind”. A title of one of her poems, I only know this phrase as the title of a Wallace Stevens collection — which I also possess in paperback. I wonder if she wrote this in response to him or in reaction to his poem.
Both poets are commenting on humanity as seen through metaphor (Stevens) and through perspective (Ryan) via the resurrection. The Christian symbolism is heavy, more obscured and abstracted in Stevens but that connection is made much clearer and more empathetic through Ryan. Symbols, biblical references, include the gold-feathered bird, palm trees, three days, etc. are not necessarily sympathetic to Christianity so much the fragile and hopeful state of being human. They’re both quite lovely, hope you enjoy.
Here the two poems, the first is On Mere Being with the eponymous first line.
On Mere Being
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.
The second by Kay Ryan more recently, is titled The Palm at the End of the Mind
After fulfilling everything
one two three he came back again
free, no more prophecy requiring
that he enter the city just this way,
no more set-up treacheries.
It was the day after Easter. He adored
the eggshell litter and the cellophane
caught in the grass. Each door he passed
swung with its own business, all the
witnesses along his route of pain
again distracted by fear of loss
or hope of gain. It was wonderful
to be a man, bewildered by
so many flowers, the rush
and ebb of hours, his own
whole heart exposed, then