Monday, April 19, 2010



It was one of those early Saturday morning drives straight up the countryside of the open highway, barely any traffic, clear weather sailing, and I read all of Samuel Menashe's New and Selected Poems (The Library of America). Many to myself, some aloud to Sweetheart at the wheel. Sunshine in the fields and pastures. Just a hint of the dark Connecticut River coming into view between the hills. Music also on low. Menashe doesn't at all seem to mind. You can almost read any one of his poems aloud between the songs. That short. Often that memorable. I'll share all the ones I read to Sweetheart. It's easy enough to do.

Pity us

By the sea

On the sands

So briefly


When I was a boy

I lost things —

I am still

Forgetful —

Yet I daresay

All will be found

One day

The hill I see

Every day

Is holy


I stand on this stump

To knock on wood

For the good I once


Cut down, yes

But rooted still

What stumps compress

No axe can kill


gives wood its grain

Dreams knot the wood


Taut with longing

You must become

The god you sought —

The only one


I shoulder the slope

that holds me

up to the sun

with my heels

dug into dust

older than hills

I left my seed in a grove so deep

The sun does not reach through the trees

Now I am wed to the wood and lord of all leaves

And I can give the green blessing to whom I please

In the Fall 2010 Samuel Menashe will be 85 years old. A New Yorker by birth and by right, except for some occasions in Europe, including as an infantryman at The Battle of the Bulge in 1944, Menashe has been at home in New York City. At the 1944 Battle he could just as easily have been beside my father, also an infantryman in that battle and one year older. A mere 20 years old. Like other American poets Menashe received his first taste of recognition in England, and it stands that way to this day. In 1961 Kathleen Raine rose to his short and often spiritual poems, as did Donald Davie. He's been honored by The Poetry Foundation with their "Neglected Masters Award", and if he's lucky, he'll remain happily that way. It's always been just the nest to thread poems.

photo of Samuel Menashe on the beach by Martin Duffy