Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1195) Advice to a Prophet
When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city, Mad-eyed from stating the obvious, Not proclaiming our fall but begging us In God's name to have self-pity, Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range, The long numbers that rocket the mind; Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind, Unable to fear what is too strange. Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race. How should we dream of this place without us?-- The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us, A stone look on the stone's face? Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost, How the view alters. We could believe, If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy, The lark avoid the reaches of our eye, The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn As Xanthus once, its gliding trout Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without The dolphin's arc, the dove's return, These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken? Ask us, prophet, how we shall call Our natures forth when that live tongue is all Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean Horse of our courage, in which beheld The singing locust of the soul unshelled, And all we mean or wish to mean. Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding Whether there shall be lofty or long standing When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.
Over the past few days, we have seen quite a few poems dealing with themes of war: pain, irony, death. This is another fine poem to the collection. The language is fresh (live tongue is all/Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken ; The singing locust of the soul unshelled) and the voice of the poet takes the prophetic ring. This poem also took me back to the 'sonnets' of Vikram Seth's Golden Gate and this speech in that book given by a Catholic priest, against the nuclear weapons and Cold War. And the poem says all of the 'two-cents' I have to say about war. And the poet had to this to say: "Wilbur: Yes. I believe that what I was trying to do in that poem was to provide - myself, of course - with a way of feeling the enormity of nuclear war, should it come. The approach of that poem, which comes at such a war through its likely effect on the creatures who surround us, is a very "thingy" one. It made it possible for me to feel something beside a kind of abstract horror, a puzzlement, at the thought of nuclear war; and it may so serve other people. I hope so." Peace! Sashi Links: The Academy of American Poets http://www.poets.org/poets/poets.cfm?45442B7C000C04050F Two older Wilbur poems on Minstrels: Poem #322 Poem #1116