Category Archives: Literature

Furnishing Walden – a poem for Henry’s birthday

Furnishing Walden 

a chair
                  a bed
a desk

The desk came first in 1838 as
it became apparent that the hours
afoot would be brought here

where they could be inked into lines
that would circumscribe worlds -
local paths, thickets, swamps,

birds, insects, plants, the odd
groundhog - all these ligaments
and lineaments, a sort of puritan

golem who would stir drafts later
and one by one readers
would walk out and be saved

for a day and the next day
each would saunter out
again along those lines

and every so often one
would not return. He saw
so far forward, you wonder

if he lived in his world,
but then you see him sprawled
on the young ice inching out,

reading the worm-trail of
history in the mud the whole
lens of coming winter flexing

beneath him and you know
from the seep of cold
that he was there, and you know

now know how you should live.
You push back the chair and
rock for a moment on the rockers

he attached to allow for just
this and you turn like a leaf
in fall contemplative;

it is, this walking motion,
the birth of thought
its pod opening like last year’s

milkweed, its heart-shaped seeds
suspended beneath the wisp
of white sail as they float

forth. All night long
on the modified Chinese sedan
that is your bed, its

rattan hand holding you up,
you dream and the small
night animals in this patch

of borrowed woodland
say that you sleep
and awaken everywhere

at home.

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Filed under Arts, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Walden

But For…

I sit in my boat on Walden, playing the flute this evening and see the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon traveling over the bottom, which is strewn with the wrecks of the forest, and feel that nothing but the wildest imagination can conceive of the manner of life we are living. Thoreau, Journal, 5/27/41

But for a few mosquitoes, these evening hours are the year’s most inviting. Even midnight reminds that this is the season of light; the night sky never wears the tight-fitting wool cap of winter – it is always some wash of gray. The old day filters up still into the western sky until, taking over, the new day promises from the east.

If I lived by a pond, I would be out on it in these hours. Which tend also to be wind-quiet ones. Still, the nearby coves of sea will do, and some evenings, I go there. Whatever has blown through during the day (fronts warm or cold) to stir the leaves and waves dissipates as the sun slips down, and the water goes glassy. Now the only wavelets are those of the vee that trails me wherever I go, announcing my passage, pointing to my presence, predicting my way.

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Then, a little offshore, I stow my paddle and float only.

Even the mosquitoes seem entranced. They circle lethargically; perhaps, after a long day of battling winds and biting warm-blooded water-goers, they are sated. I may may have the same appeal as a third dessert. I wave them away half-heartedly; they fly likewise. And then whatever it is that tethers me to the everyday disappears.

The tide ebbs and I float out under a sky shot with light. I am reminded of a friend who likes to take a rowboat out into the middle of a lake and then lie down and watch the sky until the boat’s bumping on some shoreline tells him to raise his head and see where he is. While the boat drifts the mind goes free. But for the shore…

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Blood for the Thrush

The wood thrush’s is no opera music; it is not so much the composition as the strain, the tone, — cool bars of melody from the atmospheres of everlasting morning or evening. It is the quality of sound not the sequence. Thoreau, Journal, 7/5/52

Wood-thrush

The wood thrush was said to be Henry Thoreau’s favorite bird – he called it “the finest songster in the grove” – and its dependency on deep woods mimics his nicely. Whenever I hear a thrush, I know that I’ve made my way to the woods-world, to a fullness of forest; I am beyond the margin. Here then is one such walk.

Blood for the Thrush

Morning walk and
the sanguinaries gather
as if I were an offering; still,
I figure a thimbleful’s
fair trade for this liquid
trill, and I give
to those I miss
with my swinging cap
equivalent to a horse’s tail
in its constancy and futility.
In deep, I reach
a place where four songs
overlap, a rippling
call-and-response throughout
these woods that some call home.

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Filed under Arts, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote