In French, “aubade” means “dawn serenade” and the word has also come to mean songs or poems for lovers parting in the morning. If a poet has an aubade in his or her collection, I often for some reason find myself gravitating towards it, as I was to this poem by Patrick Phillips (1970-) from his newest collection, Elegy for a Broken Machine. As I make my way through this book, I’m appreciating his meditations on the elegant and cruel mechanics of life, the broken machines that surround us and comprise us as human beings.
It’s easy to pretend
that we don’t love
But then there is
your freckled skin. Then:
your back’s faint
lattice-work of bones.
I’m not saying this
makes up for suffering,
or trying to pretend
that each day’s little ladder
of sunlight, creeping
across the bed at dawn,
somehow redeems it
for the thousand ways
in which we’ll be forsaken.
Maybe, sweet sleeper,
breathing next to me
as I scratch and scrawl
these endless notes,
I’m not saying anything
but what the sparrows out
our window sing,
high in their rotten oak.
I was introduced to Craig Arnold‘s work about a year after he disappeared while hiking on a small volcanic island in Japan in 2009. I’m having trouble choosing just one selection from his gorgeously raw last collection, Made Flesh, so here is another poem of his that I love.
Of many reasons I love you here is one
the way you write me from the gate at the airport
so I can tell you everything will be alright
so you can tell me there is a bird
trapped in the terminal all the people
ignoring it because they do not know
what to do with it except to leave it alone
until it scares itself to death
it makes you terribly terribly sad
You wish you could take the bird outside
and set it free or (failing that)
call a bird-understander
to come help the bird
All you can do is notice the bird
and feel for the bird and write
to tell me how language feels
but you are wrong
You are a bird-understander
better than I could ever be
who make so many noises
and call them song
These are your own words
your way of noticing
and saying plainly
of not turning away
you have offered them
to me I am only
giving them back
if only I could show you
how very useless
they are not
This morning I woke to a reminder from the poet Linda Gregg and the clear sunshine outside my window that amidst all the visible and intangible darkness of our lives, there is light.
“A Dark Thing Inside the Day”
So many want to be lifted by song and dancing,
and this morning it is easy to understand.
I write in the sound of chirping birds hidden
in the almond trees, the almonds still green
and thriving in the foliage. Up the street,
a man is hammering to make a new house as doves
continue their cooing forever. Bees humming
and high above that a brilliant clear sky.
The roses are blooming and I smell the sweetness.
Everything desirable is here already in abundance.
And the sea. The dark thing is hardly visible
in the leaves, under the sheen. We sleep easily.
So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.
All the flowers are adult this year. The good
world gives and the white doves praise all of it.