Theodore Roethke: The Far Field

The Abyss

I

Is the stair here?
Where’s the stair?
‘The stair’s right there
But it goes nowhere.’

And the abyss? the abyss?
‘The abyss you can’t miss:
It’s right where you are—
A step down the stair.’

Each time ever
There always is
Noon of failure,
Part of a house.

In the middle of,
Around a cloud,
On top a thistle
The wind’s slowing.

(“The Abyss,” Part 1)

 

The Manifestation

Many arrivals make us live: the tree becoming
Green, a bird tipping the topmost bough,
A seed pushing itself beyond itself,
The mole making its way through darkest ground,
The worm, intrepid scholar of the soil—
Do these analogies perplex? A sky with clouds,
The motion of the moon, and waves at play,
A sea-wind pausing in a summer tree.

What does what it should do needs nothing more.
The body moves, though slowly, toward desire.
We come to something without knowing why.

 

—Theodore Roethke, The Far Field: Last Poems. Winner of the National Book Award.

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