In March the earth remembers its own name. Everywhere the plates of snow are cracking. The rivers begin to sing. In the sky the winter stars are sliding away; new stars appear as, later, small blades of grain will shine in the dark fields.
And the name of every place is joyful.
II. The season of curiosity is everlasting and the hour for adventure never ends, but tonight even the men who walked upon the moon are lying content by open windows where the winds are sweeping over the fields, over water, over the naked earth, into villages, and lonely country houses, and the vast cities
III. because it is spring; because once more the moon and the earth are eloping – a love match that will bring forth fantastic children who will learn to stand, walk, and finally run over the surface of earth; who will believe, for years, that everything is possible.
IV. Born of clay, how shall a man be holy; born of water, how shall a man visit the stars; born of the seasons, how shall a man live forever?
V. Soon the child of the red-spotted newt, the eft, will enter his life from the tiny egg. On his delicate legs he will run through the valleys of moss down to the leaf mold by the streams, where lately white snow lay upon the earth like a deep and lustrous blanket of moon-fire,
I knelt down at the edge of the water, and if the white birds standing in the tops of the trees whistled any warning I didn’t understand, I drank up to the very moment it came crashing toward me, its tail flailing like a bundle of swords, slashing the grass, and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth gaping, and rimmed with teeth – and that’s how I almost died of foolishness in beautiful Florida. But I didn’t. I leaped aside, and fell, and it streamed past me, crushing everything in its path as it swept down to the water and threw itself in, and, in the end, this isn’t a poem about foolishness but about how I rose from the ground and saw the world as if for the second time, the way it really is. The water, that circle of shattered glass, healed itself with a slow whisper and lay back with the back-lit light of polished steel, and the birds, in the endless waterfalls of the trees, shook open the snowy pleats of their wings, and drifted away, while, for a keepsake, and to steady myself, I reached out, I picked the wild flowers from the grass around me – blue stars and blood-red trumpets on long green stems – for hours in my trembling hands they glittered like fire.
Understand, I am always trying to figure out what the soul is, and where hidden, and what shape and so, last week, when I found on the beach the ear bone of a pilot whale that may have died hundreds of years ago, I thought maybe I was close to discovering something for the ear bone
is the portion that lasts longest in any of us, man or whale; shaped like a squat spoon with a pink scoop where once, in the lively swimmer’s head, it joined its two sisters in the house of hearing, it was only two inches long and thought: the soul might be like this so hard, so necessary
yet almost nothing. Beside me the gray sea was opening and shutting its wave-doors, unfolding over and over its time-ridiculing roar; I looked but I couldn’t see anything through its dark-knit glare; yet don’t we all know, the golden sand is there at the bottom, though our eyes have never seen it, nor can our hands ever catch it
lest we would sift it down into fractions, and facts certainties and what the soul is, also I believe I will never quite know. Though I play at the edges of knowing, truly I know our part is not knowing, but looking, and touching, and loving, which is the way I walked on, softly, through the pale-pink morning light.
My work is loving the world. Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird – equal seekers of sweetness. Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums. Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn? Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished. The phoebe, the delphinium. The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture. Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all, over and over, how it is that we live forever.
Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?