my birthday present

my birthday present
My awesome birthday present 1/26/11 (see story under my first post)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Live in the Layers

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

~ Stanley Kunitz ~

(Passing Through)

I listened to an interview with Lucia Perillo, a poet I posted back on March 12 . She stated that sometimes she has no idea what her poems mean. I was surprised to hear her say that. Perhaps Kunitz knows exactly what he meant when he said "live in the layers, not on the litter." But I think whatever he intended it to mean, he intentionally wrote the poem "large enough" to have different meanings for many people. That is the beauty of poetry. What the poem means to you does not have to be what it means to me. The term "scavenger angels" grabs my attention, very interesting but puzzling, I'm not sure what to make of that. Any thoughts?


marie-josé said...

Kunitz' "Live in the layers / Not on the litter" for some reason made a lot of sense to me. Perhaps because I immediately sensed those layers as paths filtering through the litter, gliding and avoiding what is trash and unnecessary. That's my interpretation. In any case, a joy to read and a joy to hear. This poem, not necessarily more powerful, but more forceful (with a more pounding rhythm than the preceding one). And an accompanying rebellious spirit that was felt both in the reading and in the listening.

Trish Begley said...

I've been studying this poem (personally) and what you pulled from it, "scavenger angels" is interesting. I thought of satan. he was an angel, fallen, and as he "digs" through our past to remind us of how much we have messed up in the past, trying desperately to not let us forget. To keep our litter in focus.