Friday 18 January 2013

Schuyler Again

After I recently posted James Schuyler's Faure Second Piano Quartet,  Susan in New York City directed me to this rather wonderful poem by him - one full of air and light and life, but with a sharp dark edge, and a brilliant closing image. (Non-American readers might not know that Evangeline was a hugely popular narrative poem by Longfellow, set against the background of the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.)
I didn't know Schuyler could be this good...

Air from Canada

A wonderful freshness, air
that billows like bedsheets
on a clothesline and the clouds
hang in a traffic jam: summer
heads home. Evangeline,
our light is scoured and Nova
Scotian and of a clarity that
opens up the huddled masses
of the stolid spruce so you
see them in their bristling
individuality. The other
day, walking among them, I
cast my gaze upon the ground
in hope of orchids and,
pendant, dead, a sharp shadow
in the shade, a branch gouged
and left me "scarred forever
'neath the eye." Not quite. Not
the cut, but the surprise, and
how, when her dress caught fire,
Longfellow's wife spun
into his arms and in the dying
of its flaring, died. The
irreparable, which changes
nothing that went before
though it ends it. Above the wash
and bark of rumpled water, a gull
falls down the wind to dine
on fish that swim up to do the same.

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