Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Justice

Time for a poem. Here's Donald Justice, writing about something we all do as we get older - thinking about the past. It's an informal sonnet, more or less unrhymed, and breaking at the fifth and tenth lines. It was featured on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac as a tribute on Justice's 80th birthday in 2005 (he died the year before). As the poem nears the end, I think it becomes extraordinarily poignant and beautiful...

Thinking about the Past

Certain moments will never change, nor stop being—
My mother's face all smiles, all wrinkles soon;
The rock wall building, built, collapsed then, fallen;
Our upright loosening downward slowly out of tune—
All fixed into place now, all rhyming with each other.
That red-haired girl with wide mouth—Eleanor—
Forgotten thirty years—her freckled shoulders, hands.
The breast of Mary Something, freed from a white swimsuit,
Damp, sandy, warm; or Margery's, a small, caught bird—
Darkness they rise from, darkness they sink back toward.
O marvelous early cigarettes! O bitter smoke, Benton...
And Kenny in wartime whites, crisp, cocky,
Time a bow bent with his certain failure.
Dusks, dawns; waves; the ends of songs...

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