It leaves in my eyes the image of a
pearl-grey lake fleshed with blue, rain-clearing clouds,
the awakening scent of rain-wet grass, sharpness of
amber light through a clump of swamp-gums;
brighter than an hour back, it’s dusk after
a day of steady, soaking falls (“no-one
can complain,” the guy in the store tells me
earlier on.) Good weather floating through,
front after front, from the west.
In this pause,
swallows, scissoring fifty feet above,
skirt across the neighbour’s paddocks. They’re like
sheepdogs rounding up an invisible,
panicking flock - insect-sheep which never
form a mob or head to the gate. So the swallows
fly round and round, swerving, turning in air
which is still and lucid. They vanish, crossing
like space-probes before the sun, flickering, zipping,
in their backwards and forwards tennis-match;
while under the swamp-gums, that amber glow
settles ochre puddles across bare ground.
Then they’re back again, working the area,
but now it’s like they’re picking threads from off a cloth.
It’s that dense, this thick, this feeling of time -
this feeling of walking back alone under
the trees. As if somehow, the whole world’s in
another tense. Or as if you could still be young,
striding back, shadow-flinging, across the grass
in light sharp as a knife-blade, pools of it.

I’ve neighbours never moved away from here.
They’re what’s left, when a place is just enough:
a family, a house, the sister moves in too -
with a first child after the husband’s baled out.
They’re one side. Down the road, an ex-muso
and his wife - both out of work though perhaps
they live on savings anyhow. Sometimes I hear
them shouting at their dogs. Otherwise, there
are these moments, never quite catchable,
which could trick you into thinking “This
is how it is, this is the way things always look.”
Like a swirl in a flooded creek, the braid
of things is plaited tight, floating, moving,
never repeating the same glitter, the
same hillock of twisting water. Nothing, in short,
which would not be particular - and tricksy,
addictive, not to be too much believed. For that’s
the killer: there is so much already gone through -
‘so many star-shows since the 70s’ -
making it possible to read back the stages
of anybody’s life, here, today. So much
life, too much of it: detritus, memory, phrases.
(I live, I’d say, in the age of biography.)

Holed up by a day of rain now that long dry spell’s
ended at last, I’ve been reading Ian Hamilton’s
engaged “period-study” of Robert Lowell -
American, private-incomed - who made his work
bigger than life, his own life monstrous with
its breakdowns, after winter, every year:
manic depression, lithium, mornings started up
with vodka and milk, students, protest-readings,
Harvard, Italy, London, chain-smoking
and partying, carrying that mix
of aggression and weakness so attractive
to women. It hooks in. It brings nostalgia
for an older generation I knew back then -
who wanted their everyday life to perform
a universal act, a freedom out of politics.
It seems another world, a rich world gone today.
No-one stopped drinking, working only
on vacation (six months) whether in Maine or Suffolk.
Back in New York, you could die in taxis.
Fame, too, was serious, personal, mythic:
an image captioned in the heart of things.
As if you lived, hovering, in the sun’s eye. And
when it was sunset, there was Rome and cocktails.
Everyone met everyone - stuck, anxious,
suicidal - dreaming themselves, frantically, to death.

About Linda Gregerson

She grew up in Illinois. She received a B.A. from Oberlin College in 1971, an M.A. from Northwestern University, an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She teaches American poetry and Renaissance literature at the University of Michigan, where she has also directed the M.F.A. program in creative writing. She served as the judge for the 2008 Brittingham Prize in Poetry. Her poems are featured in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets (2006) and many other anthologies. **Linda Gregerson's Works:** Poetry Magnetic North, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA, 2007 Waterborne, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA,... Read more...

Poet of the day

Malay Roy Choudhury (Bengali: মলয় রায়চৌধুরী) is a Bengali poet and novelist who founded the "Hungryalist Movement" in the 1960s. His literary works have been reviewed by sixty critics in HAOWA 49, a quarterly magazine which devoted its January 2001 special issue to Roy Choudhury's life and works. Commemorative issues...

Poem of the day

À d'autres l'Italie et ses mers azurées,
Et ses villes toujours d'un chaud soleil dorées,
Venise qu'on dirait, avec ses grands palais,
Une flotte échouée au bord de sa lagune,
Où le pêcheur croit prendre, aux clartés de la lune,
Les étoiles dans ses filets...