Friday, June 24, 2011

The Morning Reading: "What is one slim girl to the people's wars?"

Celebration for June 24
By Thomas McGrath

For Marian

Before you, I was living on an island
And all around the seas of that lonely coast
Cast up their imitation jewels, cast
Their fables and enigmas, questioning, sly.
I never solved them, or ever even heard,
Being perfect in innocence: unconscious of self;
Such ignorance of history was all my wealth—
A geographer sleeping in the shadow of virgins.

But though my maps were made of private countries
I was a foreigner in all of them after you had come,
For when you spoke, it was with a human tongue
And never understood by my land-locked gentry.
Then did the sun shake down a million bells
And birds bloom on bough in wildest song!
Phlegmatic hills went shivering with flame;
The chestnut trees were manic at their deepest boles!

It is little strange that nature was riven in her frame
At this second creation, known to every lover—
How we are shaped and shape ourselves in the desires of the other
Within the tolerance of human change.
Out of the spring's innocence this revolution,
Created on a kiss, announced the second season,
The summer of private history, of growth, through whose sweet sessions
The trees lift toward the sun, each leaf a revelation.

Our bodies, coupled in the moonlight's album,
Proclaimed our love against the outlaw times
Whose signature was written in the burning towns.
Your face against the night was my medallion.
Your coming forth aroused unlikely trumpets
In the once-tame heart. They heralded your worth
Who are my lodestar, my bright and ultimate North,
Marrying all points of my personal compass.

This is the love that now invents my fear
Which nuzzles me like a puppy each violent day.
It is poor comfort that the mind comes, saying:
What is one slim girl to the people's wars?
Still, my dice are loaded: having had such luck,
Having your love, my life would still be whole
Though I should die tomorrow. I have lived it all.
—and love is never love, that cannot give love up.


1 comment:

Lyle Daggett said...

Tom McGrath is one of the poets who has been most important to me in my own life as a poet. The poem of his that you've posted here is familiar to me, though it's been some time since I've read this one.

I was interested to see the image of the poster publicizing the Ceili for McGrath. That event -- a large gathering of poets and whoever else was interested, which took place one Friday-Saturday-Sunday in 1986 here in Minneapolis -- was held to celebrate his 70th birthday. (His birthday was actually in November; the celebration was held a couple of months before that.)

I was present at the event, which was one of the great poet gatherings I've been fortunate to attend. Poetry readings (by Tom one evening, and by an array of other poets in tribute to him another evening); a daytime panel discussion about his work; a video about McGrath's life and work; and miles of great talk and general partying.

I'm curious where you tracked down the image of the poster that you've included here? Were you by any chance present at the event? Or is it online somewhere?

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