Treading Water. Backing & Filling.
Here beyond the Hogback I fling myself into the creek
Water not quite chest high, cold and fast
I let the breeze dry me and all of you on this page
Written in the sun where big spiders play on the rocks
Big black butterfly with cream edged wings investigates
What is the justice of any claim? Which Real,
What I want is to get loose; not to claim or be claimed,
Falling elegantly over the rocks into the creek and gone
Silent, living, moving; sometimes roar, bubble, splash
White, clear, dark smooth, move.
I said once before, “Wet is comfort.”
Probably I’m too fishy to be a seagull;
More likely a walrus or sealion.
Here is one specific contentment: shade beside a rapids
A little fall cascading down the opposite rocky bank
Fountains of the Boboli Gardens I doubt that I’ll ever visit.
This leaves all Italian gardens wonderful imaginary elegance:
What the designer imagined but didn’t get.
How to explain that everything is unimaginably splendid
And horrible? Or that my life at this moment is enormously
Satisfying and dreadful?
Who can resist replying, “So that else is new you got flowers
In the ass?” (O Spring, &c &c!)
& I, “Why ain't you glad I should be feeling wonderful?”
& you, exasperated, “NATURALLY you’re happy--you are
And haven’t a single brain in your head!”
I grow fatter and fatter and fatter, like the ox who wanted
To be a frog. He bought a tight green suit and went to sit
On a lilypad. One croak and the buttons flew off; two croaks
And the trousers burst; three croaks and the lilypad sank
The whole project a failure
What does the naked man say. Hot and cold, wet and dry,
rough and smooth.
Things are variously colored but that seems an impertinent
Fact. The wind is warm and dry. Lots of my skin
Is still wet.
The shadow of the naked man says, ’You are too fat even
Stand with both hands on top of your head.” The shadow of a
Young man with a round head and big ears; it doesn’t know
How old it is.
In order to be calm and mellow
One must take time to find out what it is and practice it
So that when the atmosphere becomes busy and buggy,
Everybody rushing about,
Seeking who to blame for the confusion
They are so industriously creating....
Calm mellowness may not be necessary to me
But will be there for other folks to enjoy--supposing anybody
In all the world is interested in these commodities.
The noisy creek reminds me of silk weaving looms in Kyōto.
Copyright © Philip Whalen
About the poet