A Poet's Poet
A conversation with Carl Dennis
A CHANCE FOR THE SOUL
Am I leading the life that my soul,
Mortal or not, wants me to lead is a question
That seems at least as meaningful as the question
Am I leading the life I want to live,
Given the vagueness of the pronoun "I,"
The number of things it wants at any moment.
Fictive or not, the soul asks for a few things only,
If not just one. So life would be clearer
If it werenít so silent, inaudible
Even here in the yard an hour past sundown
When the pair of cardinals and crowd of starlings
Have settled down for the night in the poplars.
Have I planted the seed of my talent in fertile soil?
Have I watered and trimmed the sapling?
Do birds nest in my canopy? Do I throw a shade
Others might find inviting? These are some handy metaphors
The soul is free to use if it finds itself
Unwilling to speak directly for reasons beyond me,
Assuming itís eager to be of service.
Now the moon, rising above the branches,
Offers itself to my soul as a double,
Its scarred face an image of the disappointment
Iím ready to say Iíve caused if the soul
Names the particulars and suggests amendments.
So fine are the threads that the moon
Uses to tug at the ocean that Galileo himself
Couldnít imagine them. He tried to explain the tides
By the earthís momentum as yesterday
I tried to explain my early waking
Three hours before dawn by street noise.
Now Iím ready to posit a tug
Or nudge from the soul. Some insight
Too important to be put off till morning
Might have been mine if Iíd opened myself
To the occasion as now I do.
Hereís a chance for the soul to fit its truth
To a world of yards, moons, poplars, and starlings,
To resist the fear that to talk my language
Means to be shoehorned into my perspective
Till it thinks as I do, narrowly.
"Be brave, Soul," I want to say to encourage it.
"Your student, however slow, is willing,
The only student youíll ever have."
© 2003, Carl Dennis