Friday, November 30, 2007

“Winter Verse for His Sister,” by William Meredith

p. 129

Moonlight washes the west side of the house
As clean as bone, it carpets like a lawn
The stubbled field tilting eastward
Where there is no sign yet of dawn.
The moon is an angel with a bright light sent
To surprise me once before I die
With the real aspect of things.
It holds the light steady and makes no comment.

Practicing for death I have lately gone
To that other house
Where our parents did most of their dying,
Embracing and not embracing their conditions.
Our father built bookcases and little by little stopped reading,
Our mother cooked proud meals for common mouths.
Kindly, they raised two children. We raked their leaves
And cut their grass, we ate and drank with them.
Reconciliation was our long work, not all of it joyful.

Now outside my own house at a cold hour
I watch the noncommittal angel lower
The steady lantern that’s worn these clapboards thin
In a wash of moonlight, while men slept within,
Accepting and not accepting their conditions,
And the fingers of trees plied a deep carpet of decay
On the gravel web underneath the field,
And the field tilting always toward day.

I find the images in this poem very beautiful in a ghostly, haunting sort of way. I like the recurrence of the moon, the angel with a light, the field tilted toward the east, accepting and not accepting—it gives the poem a feeling of coming full circle. I like the surprising phrases: “the moon is an angel,” “proud meals for common mouths.” I like the details he uses to describe growing up in that house and the last line of the middle stanza. And I like it that they raised two children “Kindly” and that the field is “tilting always toward day” with all its connotations of resurrection and joy.
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