for Nina Hutchinson
Once there was house and home
And books against the cold.
We are all gipsies now —
Wanderers in the salt dunes,
Tellers of strange fortunes,
Bathers in cold waters —
Sleeping, like John Clare,
With our feet to the pole star.
From famine, pestilence and persecution
Those gaunt forefathers shipped abroad to find
Rough stone of heaven beyond the western ocean,
And staked their claim and pinned their faith.
Tonight their children whistle through the dark,
Frost chokes the windows. They will not have heard
The wild geese flying south over the lakes
While the lakes harden beyond grief and anger —
The eyes fanatical, rigid the soft necks,
The great wings sighting with a nameless hunger.
A dream of limestone in sea-light
Where gulls have placed their perfect prints.
Reflection in that final sky
Shames vision into simple sight —
Into pure sense, experience.
Four thousand miles away tonight,
Conceived beyond such innocence,
I clutch the memory still, and I
Have measured everything with it since.
Oxford University Press 1968
The Paris Review: The Art of Poetry ~