Sunday, July 17, 2011

I saw my soul

This poem comes from an image that has been burned in my memory since we took a trip to Alaska in 2005.  We flew into Anchorage and rented an RV.  We arrived late in the day, so we only made it about 70 miles out of the city before stopping at a campground next to a lake for the night.  The next morning, I was by myself, walking along the shore, when I saw this enormous bird swoop in silently and land on the lake maybe fifty yards away.  It was larger, more powerful, and a purer white than any egret or heron I’ve ever seen.  I was completely dumbstruck by the sheer improbability of this amazingly pure thing in such a dirty place (literally dirty; it was a forest after all - there was dirt everywhere).  This vision also touched me on a deeper level, but I couldn’t quite figure out how or why. 

So this morning I was working on this image in connection with another poem about Alaska.  I was trying to combine it with some other impressions and observations, and they just weren’t going together.  Then I realized:  this image is its own thing, and needs to be its own poem.  Once I separated it from the rest and began looking at it in a new way, I understood exactly why it was etched so clearly in my mind, and what it meant to me.

I saw my soul

in the incomprehensible
pure whiteness
of a trumpeter swan.
Delicate, dignified and brawny
descending calmly
to merge onto the mirrored lake
amid the ring of pine-spiked and
bouldered shore
within a corrupt and
brutal wild.

Imagine the sublimity of seeing one pure white swan settling down on this. . . 

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