Friday, September 15, 2006

Shaping these images to make them stay

Muir Woods National Monument, California

An Event

As if a cast of grain leapt back to the hand,
A landscapeful of small black birds, intent
On the far south, convene at some command
At once in the middle of the air, at once are gone
With headlong and unanimous consent
From the pale trees and fields they settled on.

What is an individual thing? They roll
Like a drunken fingerprint across the sky!
Or so I give their image to my soul
Until, as if refusing to be caught
In any singular vision of my eye
Or in the nets and cages of my thought,

They tower up, shatter, and madden space
With their divergences, are each alone
Swallowed from sight, and leave me in this place
Shaping these images to make them stay:
Meanwhile, in some formation of their own,
They fly me still, and steal my thoughts away.

Delighted with myself and with the birds,
I set them down and give them leave to be.
It is by words and the defeat of words,
Down sudden vistas of the vain attempt,
That for a flying moment one may see
By what cross-purposes the world is dreamt.

- Richard Wilbur, American poet, 1921-
from New and Collected Poems, © 1988 by Richard Wilbur

I was delighted when I found this poem because it states so eloquently some of the reasons why I've kept a journal since seventh grade, and why I began this blog. Capturing an experience in words makes it more real, somehow. At the same time, writing about the event shapes it subtly. Inevitably choices are made, one description where another might have done. Sometimes all I know when I start is that there is something important that I want to remember, to better understand. Often, the act of choosing the words and reading them over reveals what the meaning of the story really is for me.

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