Monday, December 3, 2018
“. . . . and wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again”
Some days offer anniversaries of blunt courage and beauty. The stillness of strong poetry makes a wise response.
Richard Wilbur wrote “The Writer” in 1921, 2 years into the rolling shock waves from WWI’s chemical warfare horrors that twisted the bodies of maimed soldiers returning from Europe. Way too often, they did not find jobs waiting to honor their broken bodies. The first half-decade of post war was rough with fear and rage, with sometimes savage contempt for immigrants or for fellow citizens with whom one differed; all these pressures made for hard times, not unlike the years in which we live now.
Richard Wilbur, today’s poet, recognized in that precise moment of history, the sheer beauty and wonder of young people risking a lot while learning to write. Writing is brave, the poet tells us, especially unfinished writing.
Have a blest week. I will spend four days with my sister Midge and her family in Carson City Nevada; back Friday.
Today’s Post “The Writer” Richard Wilbur
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.
I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.
Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.
But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which
The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.
I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash
And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark
And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,
And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,
It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.
It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
richard wilbur March 1, 1921 –
p.s. On this date yesterday, December 2, 1980, four American women, Maura Clark and Ita Ford (Maryknoll sisters), Dorothy Kazel (Ursuline sister), and Jean Donovan a single young woman were raped, murdered, and buried in Salvadoran shallow graves by out-of-uniform Salvadoran soldiers. Their murders evoked a response in the U.S. that galvanized opposition to U.S. funding for the Salvadoran military.