Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nobility and Civilization

Two poems concerning civilization and the notion of self-sacrifice, which forest and human communities rely on for their furtherance.

The Nobility of Trees

The nobility of trees
Is something we imagine,
If they were us. We think
Their stillness order and their stands
An army at attention;
Or, in the breeze their costumes
Turn to skirts, or summer dresses;
Or the forelock of a bough
Seems the happiness of gentle play;
Or, if they green through snow, immortal,
Or if they shed their glory unto death’s
Brief sleep, or if they show their limbs
And fingers raising up the sky like host,
Or if they cast a shadow in the heat,
Or loom above as living monuments,
Or hide us in our childhood climbings
As the nesting birds,
Or if they wait for miles along the road,
Boring to us in their endless sloth
Of vegetation milling out the air,
And we forget them long enough:
If this were not enough and they
Some spark of revolution find,
They set the air to burning with their hair
And standing still advance upon our homes
Breathing into one combusted sun
Their stolen joists and timbers,
Plywood, pulp and paper, trim and molding,
Into one consumption with our books
And curling even photographs for fuel
Implode in great cremations
Like a war for oxygen,
Which it inhales
After all its giving out of human breath.
How we, surprised, proceed
Through its charred expanse,
The cinders and the spokes of its nobility
A ruin as magnificent as Rome.
So to this we turn in our great stillness,
In our life, our sweetness and the rage
That settles everything by sacrificing all.
The nobility of trees
Imagines us.

John Sevcik


We, the custodians of nature,
Who weave together parts of her,
Elaborating on her fragile arts
The aquaduct, the cloverleaf,
The spires of St-Michel;

We, who found our natures hers,
Who gardened patterns on the lawn,
Who studied deer and planned our jousts,
Who livened life by costumage and plume,
And heraldry and shield and home;

We, whom the carapace and fort defend
In our most magical prayers
Of love and service and our brotherhood;
We, who entrusted trust,
We road-builders on the errand of trade,

Who met across the oceans on the winds,
Who made our own, our order and our graves;
We who kept to tenderness our own
And fought to raise a temple to the light
Of inspiration, courage and God-dread;

Who feared the acts and rages of blind chance
And on the marbled palace floor
Inlaid our fragmentary and mosaic sense
Of a room fenced off by waves,
A trance of blue, and dolphins

At the center, in the happiness of play;
And from the yards of plenty there returns
A nature so transfigured by our own
That we and nature clearly do embraid
The trellis and wisteria,

The painter and the subject,
The farmer’s arm inside the apple tree,
And the round, sweet fruit
They both know and hold.

John Sevcik