Op/Ed

Poet’s Corner: Of mist and morning

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

Inside
 
Ducks of the early morning lake
vee into nearby reeds, early summer
rustling toward flight
 
while elsewhere morning scrim slowly
rises, loosens peepholes along shorelines,
pinpricks of light on familiar mountain stonecroppings
 
and bits of pale water,
unmoved
next to hints of flowing lights.
 
Lopey ghosts, those soft and racing sky spirits,
skim above the steaming lake field.
Puffs that plod into points of pines, pop.
 
On the lake’s far side, the jagged trees
that jut in and out
along peninsulas and coves
 
have not yet appeared
but what is stored
in the known will awaken.
 
Near shore a few small
boats softly rumble
under the gently moving cover.
 
Now
I will know the mist,
how it knows the lake.
— By Elizabeth VanBuskirk
 
 
Elizabeth VanBuskirk is not blind, but she writes every day in order to see. She is the author of “Beyond the Stones of Machu Picchu: Folk Tales and Stories of Inca Life,” published by Thrums Books. Her poetry can be seen in the Beloit Poetry Journal, the Aurorean, Blueline, Vermont Voices Two (anthology,) the Birchsong anthology of Vermont poets (most recently). She won a grant award for a children’s picture book from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She won two awards from the Writers’ Digest yearly contest. After winning a Mademoiselle magazine College Board Contest, she was granted an interview with T.S. Eliot.
 
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At first reading the poem “Inside” seems to be a portrait of morning at an early summer lake, but it gradually reveals itself as much more. With the appearance of the sky spirits that skim the surface, it becomes myth-like. The spirits feel alive, like the elemental beings that are part of many early cultures and also some contemporary ones, cultures that remind us the earth is a living being with consciousness of its own.
Further into the poem when the pine trees become shrouded in mist, I see a Chinese watercolor. Chinese paintings often evoke a strong sense of aliveness, and try to capture the spirit of nature, not just copy it. Everything is carefully placed; even the whitespace is significant in Chinese watercolor, and is considered to be full of the energy of the cosmos. A wonderful balance of the tactile and ethereal coexists throughout. “Pinpricks of light on familiar mountain stonecroppings … bits of pale water/ unmoved next to hints of flowing lights.”
Only after setting the poem aside for a couple weeks did I start to see more of why it moves me, apart from the elemental spirits and its painterly nature. I saw how it holds the contrast of both stillness and movement, of silence and sound. It feels like a full universe, one that carries something of the eternal but also the alive and active world of form. This is not just a placid, pensive morning at the lake, nor is life.
The world of form is the one that the poem starts out with — ducks veeing into the reeds — while directly afterward we have the scrim of morning slowly loosening along the motionless shoreline near still water. Winged creatures moving swiftly through the air so close to that which does not move, brings much more energy and excitement than either thing on its own could. This contrast continues with the racing sky spirits skimming over the lake and, finally, the soft rumble of boats under the mist, just as in our minds we carry both the busyness of life and the stillness of our being, as if the two are poised for a greater collaboration.
Within the lines “but what is stored in the known will awaken,” I sense something else, something uncertain, but also reassuring. It feels powerful, like a presence gently waking us up. Trees store an abundance of wisdom and intelligence in their seeds, roots, and the fungal networks that connect them. Much lives in us, too, that can be tapped and help waken us more fully to our lives, to the world we are living in, and our place in it. To our own movement toward balance, individually and collectively. To be the still solid shoreline, and the grace and strength of strong wings.
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Susan Jefts is a poet and educator from Ripton and the Adirondacks of New York. She has been published in journals throughout the country, is nearing completion of a new book of poetry and leads workshops that use poetry to explore various life themes and our deepening connections to nature. Learn more about her work at manyriverslifeguidance.com.

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