Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fall, Snyder, Menashe

Up at 6:15 today--well, earlier, really--to get my son up for school. Fall term has started, for the kids, anyway, and that means my own fall can't be far behind.

This came in over the transom yesterday, and although I'm not a fan of Garrison Keillor, who posted and read it on The Writer's Almanac, it seemed appropriate, somehow.
The Trail is Not a Trail

I drove down the Freeway
And turned off at an exit
And went along a highway
Til it came to a sideroad
Drove up the sideroad
Til it turned to a dirt road
Full of bumps, and stopped.
Walked up a trail
But the trail got rough
And it faded away—
Out in the open,
Everywhere to go.
That's Gary Snyder, from a book of out-takes (i.e., "uncollected work") he published back in 1986, just as I was graduating college, Left Out in the Rain. I miss reading Snyder in the uncomplicated way I did back in high school; my mind gets cluttered now with issues of cultural appropriation and so on, but those don't get in the way with this little squib.

I don't love the repetition of "sideroad" and the way it turns into "dirt road," although if you buy me a cup of coffee I can probably explain it away somehow. I do, though, quite like the way that "got rough" surprises me by turning an expected negative (the going gets rough) into a virtue, and the poem opens nicely into dialogue with a couple of other texts: Frost, of course ("The Road Not Taken") and Milton (the end of Paradise Lost, where "The world was all before them, where to choose / Their place of rest, and Providence their guide" etc.).

Sorry to learn this morning that Samuel Menashe passed away. Here's one of his, to say goodbye:
Old Mirror

In this glass oval
As love's own lake
I face myself, your son
Who looks like you--
Once we were two