Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dan Chiasson, "Which Species On Earth Is Saddest?"

When we wake up in our bodies, first we weep.
We weep because the air is thick as honey.

Even the air is a body. Ours is the bottommost
and newest body, nested inside other, older ones

(though the mother’s body is repairing itself now;
there’s no trace of us anywhere on her;

why are we part of every body but our mother’s?)
Die as soon as possible, the Scriptures say.

And many do — or soon enough, as in the tales of
a swollen boy, now years ago, in farthest Africa,

who filled a grove of cherry trees with tears, then
vanished into the grove. He hides behind trees.

That’s death for you. Grief is a cherry grove.
Don’t be born at all. My friend is on fast-forward now

to reach the scene where they erase her childlessness.
She knows she hid that kid somewhere inside of her,

but where? We know nothing else except by learning:
not walking, not eating. Only to cry comes naturally.


From Natural History (2005)

Another variation on the title/riddle poem - here the title poses a question, for which the final lines provide an oblique answer. I think the opening and closing of this poem are wonderfully pitched, with a slow pacing reflecting the layers of honey, the sense of inevitability of the tragic blanket of accruing experience. I'm currently suffering from the slow, honey-like congestion (nasal and mental) of a cold, and need to be getting under covers myself - so I'll have to leave it at that.

(More on Dan Chiasson:

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