Poetry Friday: The Collected Works of Susan Ramsey
I apologize for not posting one of these in a while. With the switch to the new blog I’ve somehow managed to consistently forget when Friday is. For the full Poetry Friday round-up, please consult Mentor Texts. In any case, from the pen of Susan Ramsey comes the following…
[Emerson] now got his own future exactly reversed when he said,
"You may perish out of your senses, but not out of your memory or imagination."
Robert D. Richardson
In the end, God cut Emerson a break.
That mind had been stoked nova-white for decades —
reading German philosophers, Hindu sacred texts,
to light the meadow where Waldo wrestled with
the angel of existence, demanding meaning.
No one’s word was good enough for him.
And he lived. Any star can fill the sky
then fall in on itself, demanding darkness,
die of consumption, the Hellespont, the head
in an oven. He made his name then kept on living
up to himself, refusing to relax.
His first wife died at nineteen, coughing blood.
His first son died at five. Death circled him
like buzzards on a thermal. He persisted.
Finally God allowed that brain to slip
free from the limits of language, like
a watch spring from the constrictions of its case.
The ideas stayed; names went drifting off.
He started tying labels onto things:
an umbrella became "what the guest leaves behind."
Look at the final photos, the portrait on
The Portable Emerson. The brow is there,
the eagle’s beak. Look closer, at the eyes.
As if through a backwards telescope
you see the nebula which was his mind
spiraling dreamily out into darkness
Poetry Northwest, Summer, 2000
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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