Saturday, October 3, 2009

Donald Justice (I)

I don’t feel very elaborative at the moment, but you probably deserve another poem. Donald Justice was a very fine poet. He died in 2004.

This is among his last published poems. I read somewhere that the last stanza was inspired by Chekhov, and that seems just right to me -- the sense of simple and wholesome labor in an atmosphere of bright sunlight. I am not myself sure that such things are redemptive, but this remains a lovely poem. I have seen it published under two different titles -- they are "Stanzas on a Hidden Theme" and the first line.

There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight.
It is like happiness, when we are happy.
It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light,
And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross
Share in its charity equally with the cross.

Orpheus hesitated beside the black river.
With so much to look forward to he looked back.
We think he sang then, but the song is lost.
At least he had seen once more the beloved back.
I say the song went this way: O prolong
Now the sorrow if that is all there is to prolong.

The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work.
One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good.
The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar.
Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good.
And all that we suffered through having existed
Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.

Later this weekend, I will give you cake.

Donald Justice on Wikipedia

Donald Justice on

No comments:

Post a Comment