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Theodore Roethke

 

"In a Dark Time"

 

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood--
A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What's madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstances? The day's on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
That place among the rocks--is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is--
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark, dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(+)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"River Incident"

 

A shell arched under my toes,

Stirred up by a whirl of silt

That rifted around my knees.

Whatever I owed to time slowed in my human form;

Sea water stood in my veins,

The elements I kept warm

Crumbled and flowed away,

And I knew I had been there before,

In that cold, granitic slime,

In the dark, in the rolling water.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(+)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The Waking"

I strolled across
An open field;
The sun was out;
Heat was happy.

This way! This way!
The wren's throat shimmered,
Either to other,
The blossoms sang.

The stones sang,
The little ones did,
And the flowers jumped
Like small goats.

A ragged fringe
Of daisys waved;
I wasn't alone
In a grove of apples.

Far in the wood
A nestling sighed;
The dew loosened
Its morning smells.

I came where the river
Ran over stones:
My ears knew
An early joy.

And all the waters
Of all the streams
Sang in my veins
That summer day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(+)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The Visitant"

1
A cloud moved close. The bulk of the wind shifted.
A Tree swayed over water.
A voice said:
Stay. Stay by the slip-ooze. Stay.

Dearest tree, I said, may I rest here?
A ripple made a soft reply.
I waited, alert as a dog.
The leech clinging to a stone waited;
And the crab, the quiet breather.

2
Slow, slow as a fish she came,
Slow as a fish coming forward,
Swaying in a long wave;
Her skirts not touching a leaf,
Her white arms reaching towards me.

She came without sound,
Without brushing the wet stones;

In the soft dark of early evening,
She came,
The wind in her hair,
The moon beginning.

3
I woke in the first of morning.
Staring at a tree, I felt the pulse of a stone.
Where's she now, I kept saying.
Where's she now, the mountain's downy girl?
But the bright day had no answer.
A wind stirred in a web of appleworms;
The tree, the close willow, swayed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(+)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 

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