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A Country Life Analysis

Author: poem of Randall Jarrell Type: poem Views: 6

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A bird that I don't know,

Hunched on his light-pole like a scarecrow,

Looks sideways out into the wheat

The wind waves under the waves of heat.

The field is yellow as egg-bread dough

Except where (just as though they'd let

It live for looks) a locust billows

In leaf-green and shade-violet,

A standing mercy.

The bird calls twice, "Red clay, red clay";

Or else he's saying, "Directly, directly."

If someone came by I could ask,

Around here all of them must know --

And why they live so and die so --

Or why, for once, the lagging heron

Flaps from the little creek's parched cresses

Across the harsh-grassed, gullied meadow

To the black, rowed evergreens below.

They know and they don't know.

To ask, a man must be a stranger --

And asking, much more answering, is dangerous;

Asked about it, who would not repent

Of all he ever did and never meant,

And think a life and its distresses,

Its random, clutched-for, homefelt blisses,

The circumstances of an accident?

The farthest farmer in a field,

A gaunt plant grown, for seed, by farmers,

Has felt a longing, lorn urbanity

Jailed in his breast; and, just as I,

Has grunted, in his old perplexity,

A standing plea.

From the tar of the blazing square

The eyes shift, in their taciturn

And unavowing, unavailable sorrow.

Yet the intonation of a name confesses

Some secrets that they never meant

To let out to a soul; and what words would not dim

The bowed and weathered heads above the denim

Or the once-too-often washed wash dresses?

They are subdued to their own element.

One day

The red, clay face

Is lowered to the naked clay;

After some words, the body is forsaken

The shadows lengthen, and a dreaming hope

Breathes, from the vague mound, Life;

From the grove under the spire

Stars shine, and a wandering light

Is kindled for the mourner, man.

The angel kneeling with the wreath

Sees, in the moonlight, graves.


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