799: Fragment (Stone)

799: Fragment (Stone)

799: Fragment (Stone)


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

One of the great difficulties of being a writer is choosing from amidst the density and sprawl of the world around us, trying to decide what particular images I should focus my efforts on when evoking life for a reader. Not all poetry has to do this work, but how gratifying when a poem anchors us. The intensity of seeing and the process of selecting is a marker of a poet’s personality and a crucial aspect of their vision, especially as we try to assign meaning. Isn’t that the crucial work of writing, too . . . well, even of living? Meaning. Even if we grasp it, for a moment, clarity and insight are fleeting. This is why Robert Frost referred to poetry as a “momentary stay against confusion,” emphasis on “momentary.”

So, for example, today I am writing this episode from my home in Vermont while looking out my window. Right now, the forest floor is covered with decayed leaves, and a fog is beginning to engulf the detritus. I can still see ash and charred wood in a firepit from a small bonfire, evidence of an impromptu gathering with friends this fall.

Denuded saplings stand erect like thin soldiers and branches point in every direction; they make a haphazard mesh of my sight. Abandoned nests lodge in the crooks of tree limbs. Little patches of snow that survived the rains from several days ago linger. It is a typical winter day; diffused light makes everything around me a washed out gray. The only green in sight is on moss-covered mountain boulders and a few evergreen pines, which from a distance, is more black than green.

I want to find images or symbols that can make meaning from the scene before me. Something to illumine the unknown. But there isn't one answer. The practice itself is the magic.

Today’s poem replicates the repetition and lucidity of patterns found in nature. It renders palpable the act of the imagination so that we feel the motion of thought, because thinking is feeling. What I also enjoy about this poem is how it finds the consolation of what exists before us, rather than what eludes us.

Fragment (Stone)
by Ann Lauterbach

                             What has a soul, or pain, to do with a stone? 
                                                                                                   –Ludwig Wittgenstein

You could walk not far through the grass to the shed barefoot
restless eye landing on distance there not far you could walk
looking down at various grasses weeds clover along the way
your toes in the green the undersides of your feet the cool damp
where is significance you think as you imagine walking across
grass to the shed barefoot what counts here does anything count
on the short walk while looking down and then over then up
at the catbird in the lilac where there are now dry brown sprays
at the robin hopping in the grass over there what counts you ask
incredulous at the pace not your pace the pace of time as if
rolling downhill gathering speed wound around
itself like giant twine but invisible so not present
in the sense of seen the way you assign to the visible presence
even as what is on your mind as you walk across the grass toward
the shed is invisible names their persons hunger mistakes
the lost and the recently slaughtered because of words
believed by the hopeless lost from view tossed
into the past like a weed a rind a stone found in grass
so find solace in the particular single crow high in the dead ash
its one-note cry sky pale blue low light sliding across wires.

                                                                                                    to Fia

“Fragment (Stone)” by Ann Lauterbach from DOOR © 2023 Ann Lauterbach. Used by permission of Penguin Random House.