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A Hermit Thrush Analysis

Author: poem of Amy Clampitt Type: poem Views: 11

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Nothing's certain.  Crossing, on this longest day,

the low-tide-uncovered isthmus, scrambling up

the scree-slope of what at high tide

will be again an island,

to where, a decade since well-being staked

the slender, unpremeditated claim that brings us

back, year after year, lugging the

makings of another picnic—

the cucumber sandwiches, the sea-air-sanctified

fig newtons—there's no knowing what the slamming

seas, the gales of yet another winter

may have done. Still there,

the gust-beleaguered single spruce tree,

the ant-thronged, root-snelled moss, grass

and clover tuffet underneath it,

edges frazzled raw

but, like our own prolonged attachment, holding.

Whatever moral lesson might commend itself,

there's no use drawing one,

there's nothing here

to seize on as exemplifying any so-called virtue

(holding on despite adversity, perhaps) or

any no-more-than-human tendency—

stubborn adherence, say,

to a wholly wrongheaded tenet. Though to

hold on in any case means taking less and less

for granted, some few things seem nearly

certain, as that the longest day

will come again, will seem to hold its breath,

the months-long exhalation of diminishment

again begin. Last night you woke me

for a look at Jupiter,

that vast cinder wheeled unblinking

in a bath of galaxies. Watching, we traveled

toward an apprehension all but impossible

to be held onto—

that no point is fixed, that there's no foothold

but roams untethered save by such snells,

such sailor's knots, such stays

and guy wires as are

mainly of our own devising. From such an

empyrean, aloof seraphic mentors urge us

to look down on all attachment,

on any bonding, as

in the end untenable. Base as it is, from

year to year the earth's sore surface

mends and rebinds itself, however

and as best it can, with

thread of cinquefoil, tendril of the magenta

beach pea, trammel of bramble; with easings,

mulchings, fragrances, the gray-green

bayberry's cool poultice—

and what can't finally be mended, the salt air

proceeds to buff and rarefy: the lopped carnage

of the seaward spruce clump weathers

lustrous, to wood-silver.

Little is certain, other than the tide that

circumscribes us that still sets its term

to every picnic—today we stayed too long

again, and got our feet wet—

and all attachment may prove at best, perhaps,

a broken, a much-mended thing. Watching

the longest day take cover under

a monk's-cowl overcast,

with thunder, rain and wind, then waiting,

we drop everything to listen as a

hermit thrush distills its fragmentary,

hesitant, in the end

unbroken music. From what source (beyond us, or

the wells within?) such links perceived arrive—

diminished sequences so uninsistingly

not even human—there's

hardly a vocabulary left to wonder, uncertain

as we are of so much in this existence, this

botched, cumbersome, much-mended,

not unsatisfactory thing.

Anonymous submission.


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