[from Allen Grossman's Descartes' Loneliness, New Directions, 2007]
Rain on a Still Pond
She's come. -- Suddenly the room where I sit
feels emptier than before. If I look up now,
I will see her standing in the open door
gazing in toward me with her question.
And I am less because she's here, not more.
It is as when, on a summer afternoon,
raindrops begin to fall in utter silence
on a still pond. And a canoeist out there
lifts up his eyes and sees, looking at
the water, how water is falling into water.
A new solitude, until that moment
not known -- it is the empty universe
of her voice -- passes into my heart,
like vanishing into water. She says,
"When you return to the shore, canoeist,
and are rested from your journey, remember me.
Among the histories of rain I linger to hear,
I linger to hear your answer to my question:
How do you merit to live so long?"
Then I say to her: "Dilectissima, it is as when
the sky darkens imperceptibly and a wind
moves slowly, as great things do, high up in
trees at the shore, not yet touching the surface
of the still pond. And then one raindrop falls
on the still water, without sound, and makes a circle.
First one drop falls and makes a circle. Then
another, at a distance. The first circle is
larger than the second at the moment of
the appearance of the second, and lingers.
Then the pond is stricken by a third raindrop.
The second circle grows large. But the first
raindrop of the shower has disappeared.
A big wind descends upon the pond.
Time is told telling of our lives, each of us
appearing and disappearing." Once more
I hear her question. Or is it the wind.
"But how do you merit to live so long?"
And then she vanishes, water into water.
Turning from the door I sit alone
once more. But this time taught, as by a daughter.
Visit Reginald Shepherd's blog for thoughtful remarks on Grossman and Shepherd's favorite Grossman poems.