Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Three more


1) Wallace Stevens:

In the presto of the evening, dancers trod,
Glittering figures in a fictive perichoresis,
Angels of the winged imagination.

Light the first lights of dusk, as the fleet figures
Stick their left foot in, and take their left foot out,
Then, nabobs of New Haven, shake it about.

It is the memory of the dance, the hokey-pokey,
Which lingers in a celestial diminuendo,
After the revelry closes like a portal in Peoria.

2) Edna St Vincent Millay:

O you who stuck your foot in, took it out,
Recall those youthful blushing days gone by
When you would cut a rug and shake about --
They swept past in the winking of an eye.
I contemplate the hokey-pokey now
And obsolescent love, and dying roses:
I would return -- but who can tell me how? --
To nights of high stepping and playful poses.
One summer, on Matinicus, we'd dance
And drink the sweet juice of the bursting vine;
Carefree, we left our future all to chance:
We spun, we reeled, we drained the jug of wine.
My cheek has turned pale, and my blood grown cold;
Some thirty years have passed, and I am old.

3) Mary Oliver:


What is the meaning of the dance?
What is the hokey? And yes, what is the pokey?
I have danced by the lucid, fluent river,
and I have paid attention to the flashing of the stream,
to the wild and lively trout that dart here and there
as the circling figures stick their left foot in
and shake it like a feeble leaf
in an August windstorm.
I do not know how to pray as I should,
but I do know how to turn myself around
as the wings of the heron beckon me
to another hour of the hokey-pokey.
And is this not the meaning of life,
of the moments we have squandered in easy liberty?
And sometimes, on a summer day in Provincetown,
doesn't the seagull whirl in the carefree sky?
And at night, don't the voices of the owls
hoot in raucous revelry?

Once, in the chill gray of early morning,
I saw a deer in the mist-wreathed alders behind our cottage.
His questioning eyes knew nothing of human greed,
of brute rapacity and steely acquisition,
but he seemed to know about the hokey-pokey.
Tell me, dear friends, have you never done the hokey-pokey?
And is it not what it's really all about?