a gift, a bestowal

In honor of National Poetry Month I offer this one poem from the poet Hayden Carruth, who reminds us “the poem is a gift, a bestowal.”

The Impossible Indispensability of the Ars Poetica
Hayden Carruth

But of course the poem is not an assertion. Do you see? When I wrote
That all my poems over the long years before I met you made you come true,
And that the poems for you since then have made you in yourself become more true,
I did not mean that the poems created or invented you. How many have foundered
In that sargasso! No, what I have been trying to say
Is that neither of the quaint immemorial views of poetry is adequate for us.
A poem is not an expression, nor is it an object. Yet it somewhat partakes of both. What a poem is
Is never to be known, for which I have learned to be grateful. But the aspect in which I see my own
Is as the act of love. The poem is a gift, a bestowal.
The poem is for us what instinct is for animals, a continuing and chiefly unthought corroboration of essence
(Thought thought, ours and the animals’, is still useful).
Why otherwise is the earliest always the most important, the formative? The Iliad, the Odyssey, the book of Genesis,
These were acts of Love, I mean deeply felt gestures, which continuously bestow upon us
What we are. And if I do not know which poem of mine
Was my earliest gift to you,
Except that it had to have been written about someone else,
Nevertheless it was the gesture accruing value to you, your essence, while you were still a child, and thereafter
Across all these years. And see how much
Has come from that first sonnet after our loving began, the one
That was a kiss, a gift, a bestowal. This is the paradigm of fecundity. I think the poem is not
Transparent, as some have said, nor a looking glass, as some have also said,
In its cage of visibility. It disperses among the words. It is a fluidity, a vapor, of love.
This, the instinctual, is what caused me to write, “Do you see?” instead of “Don’t you see?” in the first line
Of this poem, this loving treatise, which is what gives away the poem
And gives it all to you.

To learn more about Hayden Carruth and read more of his poems visit the Poetry Foundation.


pronoun we

I was standing in front of the wood stove this morning warming my backside, a habit built into the edifice of my bones, when I looked out the east window and saw through a tangle of bare aspen and chokecherry branches a small triangle of green in my neighbor’s yard, toy green, a green I hadn’t seen out that window before, after all the mornings; I just stood in that place, thinking: I am standing in a brand new spot in the little world of this house.

I don’t want to grow old like this. Old upon old.

I’ve been reading Thomas Merton the past weeks with some Quakers. I was small in the shadow of Quaker peace when I was a girl, and I hadn’t yet developed my discontent with the pronouns He and We when Merton wrote in a closing prayer in the The Book of Hours, pronouns abounding:

We are in Him, He is in us. There is nothing further to look for, except for the deepening of this life we already possess. Be content.

I should not venture into this country, it’s just I love that Merton ended the passage on be content. Once I overheard a man and woman standing in an aisle in the hardware store discuss which No Trespassing sign to buy. Matter of fact? Conciliatory? When I was a kid, curled on the floor with my brother and sister in front of the television, maybe watching Red Skelton, maybe watching Laugh In, we’d say to each other: Your feet stink. No, Your feet stink.

That we might pass clean out of the midst of all that is transitory and inconclusive: return to the Immense, the Primordial, the Source, the unknown, to Him Who loves and knows, to the Silent, to the Merciful, to the Holy, to Him Who is All.

Companionable pronouns. When I first read Rumi I thought he was in love with a woman.

If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed.

He. She. Dog. Cat. Tree. Swallow. It.

I still squeak between barbed wires to walk out into the open fields. If I reduce God to a pronoun is the pronoun He or We? I’m glad to have an answer.

The plural sky transfigured into one sky; it’s snowing.

I searched the internet to see what Emily Dickinson had to say about precipitation and pleasantly discovered Emily Dickinson Elementary School in Montana.

It’s contentable to be standing in a brand new spot in the little world of this world.


A raven just flew past at eye level. They’re always on some serious mission. They remind me of my mother in a shopping mall. Today is the tail end of an Indian summer. The aspens across the creek with their bare arms stretched to the sky have been singing Hallelujah, but tomorrow snow is on the horizon, the thickening up of winter, so this afternoon I brought a chair out into the sunshine to let the wind blow off my patheticness. The dog is happy to see me. She’s never happier than when I join her outside. A chipmunk stuffs its cheeks with sunflower seeds. The dog hurries to her job of bellying in the dirt under the house after the chipmunk. I hear her bang her head on floor joists. The chipmunk doesn’t have to worry about eating too much sugar, or the grunge that can grow in the gut when you’re on massive doses of antibiotics. We fill the feeder every day and the chipmunk eats half the seed. I wish the deer would do the same about the lettuce in the garden in summer, eat half, leave half for us. I used to spend entire days outside. I used to spend entire months outside. I used to sit on cliffs above a river and watch bald eagles mute and feed their chicks and talon fish. I used to hike in the mountains, hike over the mountains, never took to crawling under the mountains. Some people believe there is a golden room in the center of the Grand Teton. The Temple of Precipitation. The Golden Retreat. The temple is open twice a year. Ascended Masters, angels meet to discuss ways to fix what we mess up in the world. By all description the room is beautiful, onyx, blue and rose granite, gold. It’s filled with lilies. I tried my best to believe in it. I thought if I believed in it I’d get well. Beg, borrow, and steal. Today I believe in this: standing in a chilly wind listening to the enormous sound of a raven flying toward something important.