Backyard Georgics by Lance Larsen

It takes a calendar one damp day to declare fall,
weeks of dying mums to second the motion.

* * *

Gone the homeland, gone the father, nothing left
but invisible north to magnetize your doubts.

* * *

Not eulogies or hearses but the sandwiches after,
estranged cousins chewing under one umbrella.

* * *

One clock for errands, one for midnight
trysts, though neither will hurry a slow train.

* * *

Prairie is not the floor nor sky the coffered ceiling.
Even a scarecrow is wise beyond its straw.

* * *

Look down: a river of grass. Look up: a velvet lost
and found. Look inside: no straws to drink that dusk.

* * *

A woman’s watch thieved by a jay €”ah, to be lifted
like that, to be carried like time across lapping waves.

____________________________________________
Lance Larsen will serve as Utah’s poet laureate from May, 2012 until May, 2015. “Backyard Georgics” originally appeared in Poetry. For an introductory essay and Larsen’s bio, go here. For additional poems, go here and here.

3 thoughts on “Backyard Georgics by Lance Larsen”

  1. After my third pass, some ideas are congealing. A poem clearly (to me) about coping with a death and the thoughts that come after, about the sureness of afterlife, about the end of one’s own life. Of course, that may just be me projecting. I identify strongly with this line:

    Not eulogies or hearses but the sandwiches after,
    estranged cousins chewing under one umbrella.

    Having so recently attended my grandfather’s funeral. I also love “prairie is not the floor, nor sky the coffered ceiling,” for me, saying that we exist outside of matter, and that death does not end existence, that we aren’t limited to this earth and this life.

    I’m still puzzling over what the straw means.

    The last line is also an enigma to me, still. But I can tell that when I figure it out I’ll like it.

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  2. “Even a scarecrow is wise beyond its straw”–
    maybe Larsen didn’t intend this, but I immediately think of TS Elliot’s Hollow Men. This seems a different message, though… that we are more than the sum of our parts. The scarecrow is a thing comprised of straw, but beyond straw… We are more than our physical bodies.

    Continuing with the straw in the second-to-las stanza…. “look inside: no straws to drink that dusk.” I’m percolating a little on the clocks theme, this seems like it might apply. Talking of clocks, Larsen states “neither will hurry a slow train.” The slow train being mortality, on the way to impending death? And so maybe I can assume the last stanza is using the watch in a similar way… the jay carrying a person quickly through to the other side… I don’t see it as wishing for death, more wishing to see the other side, maybe. So the straw in the second to last stanza might be about that impenetrable veil… that we don’t have the capacity inside to see beyond it while in our mortal state?

    Someone else comment. I don’t know enough about poetry to do this by myself 😉

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  3. Sure, Sarah. All that and more. Truth is, this is a weird poem: a collocation of aphorisms that resist wisdom. And a nature that resists our uses for it. I love the surprise in the last stanza, and this is one of the places where I see the shade of Hopkins: the world, natural and otherwise, is to be wondered at, envied, drunk in, but never owned.

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