My high-school English teacher defined poetry as “crystallized thought.” As little as I’ve thought about poetry in the intervening fifteen years, I have always considered his definition to be a pretty decent one. It conjures up images of a weak, watery solution, boiled down to its purest essence- everything evaporating away except the poet’s most poignant pictures, thoughts and emotions.
And as long as a poem isn’t completely abstract and incomprehensible, I’m okay with nibbling these scattered bits and fragments, if they truly convey something meaningful. Then again, sometimes I just like a poem to tell a story. Here’s one that does just that. Hope you like it:
By Deborah Digges
Call out the names in the procession of the loved
Call from the blood the ancestors here to bear witness
to the day he stopped the car,
we, on our way to a great banquet in his honor.
In a field, a cow groaned, lowing, trying to give birth,
what he called front leg presentation,
the calf come out nose-first, one front leg dangling from his mother.
A fatal sign, he said, while rolling up the sleeves
of his dress shirt and climbed the fence.
I watched him thrust his arms entire
into the yet-to-be, where I imagined holy sparrows scattering
in the hall of souls for his big mortal hands just to make way.
With his whole weight he pushed the calf back in the mother
and grasped the other leg tucked up like a closed wing
against the new one’s shoulder
And found a way in the warm dark to bring both legs out
into the world together,
Then heaved and pulled, the cow arching her back,
until a bull calf, in whoosh of blood and water,
came falling whole and still onto the meadow
We rubbed his blackness, bloodying our hands
The mother licked her newborn of us, oblivious
until it moved a little, struggled.
I ran to get our coats, mine a green velvet cloak,
And his tuxedo jacket, and worked to rub the new one dry
while he set out to find the farmer
When it was over, the new calf suckling his mother,
leaving our coats just where they lay
we huddled in the car
And then made love toward eternity
without a word drove slowly home. And loved some more.
There are so many good lines in there, it's hard to choose highlights. (I transcribed this from YouTube, so hopefully I got the line breaks and punctuation right.) But what about the rest of you? What poems have punched you in the schnoz lately?