Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ALMANACH DU PRINTEMPS VIVAROIS, by HAYDEN CARRUTH

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ALMANACH DU PRINTEMPS VIVAROIS, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Am I obsessed by stone? Life has worn thin here
Subject(s): France

Am I obsessed by stone? Life has worn thin here
where the garrigue slopes down to the fields,
to the vignes and luzerne. A meager surface
covers the stone -- stone so long my own
life and song -- only gray tufts of grass, moss,
the thyme just beginning in its rough
tangles to glitter with little purple blooms,
the summer savory so very
fragrant now, the piloselles, the broom, the first
poppies and thistles, with no more than
a few cades and chenes verts, scrubby and prickly,
to make shadows; yes, a sparse surface
and the stone shows through, flakes, grits, fragments, sharp shards
littering the ground, or the outcrop
of smooth bedrock here and there, and then the huge
escarpment across the way, looming
over the valley. The stone gleams, pale gray. Life
has worn thin here, washed always down. Ah,
republica de miseria, so sang
one poet in the olden tongue, lo
lenga d'oc, a song of dole, and he meant it
to be taken hermetically
both ways, of spirit and body; trobar clus
for the oppressed and loving people.
Now one tractor, small in the distance, rumbles
below in its sulfatage, spraying
the vine-rows, while nearby a wall that someone
a couple of hundred years ago
assembled, the stones chosen with care, all flat
and set tight with the top row upright
and angled, has fallen, sprawled away. Only
parts of it remain to exhibit
the original construction. Life has worn
thin here, and mine as well. A cuckoo
calls, calls, calls, damned mad invariable sound,
over and over, telling the mad
impossible hours. Lo cinc d'abrieu,
lo cocut deu chantar, mort o vieu.
And who can ignore such meanings, messages,
intimations? A squawking magpie
staggers through the lower air, a jerk and a
joke. Time flies. But murkily and in
confusion, cock-eyed. Yet it's mid-morning, mid-April,
the Ardeche, one might do worse,
one might do almost immeasurably worse,
and the sun at last is strong after
our long shivering in the mistral. Jacket
and sweater are pillow now, I'm down
to my shirt, my companion already down
to practically nothing, lovely
to see, and although I am content to bake,
eating the sun (as the Italians
say) to put marrow in my bones while I make
lazy words run in a lazy song
about stones, she is all business and she knows
her business -- oh, nothing could be more
plain, she in the lotus position, her board
propped on her knees. She draws. She is young,
she has a right to be serious. Finches
are serious in the oak-bushes,
chittering, chattering, gathering gray grass
and gray lichen for their nests. Finches?
They look more or less like finches. Ignorance --
how it invades a petulant mind
aging in laziness and lust. And the sun,
higher now, stronger, a radiance
in the sky and a blaze in the valley's faint
blue mist, burning on the stone, turning
our Ibie white, our river so greenly fresh
three weeks ago, now a slow seepage,
is hot, hot, blessedly hot, stirring my blood,
warming me through, and also moving
the summer savory to even greater
fragrance, the plant called sariette, known
as an aphrodisiac. Do I need that?
Not after last night. Strange, the seed still
sprouting in hot sun from the hill of stone. Strange,
the old spirit and old body still
flouting time and murk and confusion in lust.
The young woman in her sunhat and
underwear peers off at the distance, then down
at her page, so certain of her work,
its newness, its autonomy -- her art there
darkening the paper. But my song
is old, my stone song; I patch it up from shreds
of Latin grandeur and trobar rhyme,
old, conventional, wrong -- who knows it better? --
though all conventions are old as soon
as they occur. They are always occurring.
The song is all in my head. Shreds of
culture. Confusions of time. It is noon now,
my shirt goes to the pillow, I look
at my own white skin, almost parched it seems, creased
with age-lines. And it gleams! Suddenly
the republic of misery is blazing,
the old stone is glowing, and as if
at a stroke of some cosmic tone everything
falls silent, the finches, the tractor,
the cuckoo, the litho-pencil squeaking, yes,
the small wind in the grass, but nothing
has stopped. Am I deaf now too? Or is silence
the indispensable analogue
of brilliance? And stone is silent. Ancient stone,
glowing stone. Song in its confusions
is all extraneous, it dies away. Shreds
of time. In April when the seed sprouts,
in the Ardeche huge with silence where life is
thin, an old man and a girl are held
in stillness, in radiance, in flames of stone,
for the moment of eternity.

Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA
98368-0271, www.cc.press.org

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