Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Each mortal thing speaks and spells


This enormous oak is next to our rental house in Palo Alto, and it's an imposing presence. It seems unlikely, somehow, to share your street with this immense life form. These trees spread out over a lot of space, with heavy branches hung parallel to the ground. It's much bigger -- maybe twice the size -- of the house beside it.

The first thing I've taken in about this place are plants and trees. Coming from the east coast, it's balm to the spirit to see leaves and flowers, and a pleasure to notice the way the bluejays look entirely different from eastern ones, even a different hue, sort of lighter and more azure. This morning, on my way to the barber shop, an unfamiliar little brown bird hopping in the gutter, with a lustrous black head like a leather hood.

Today's my first class at Stanford, so I will be meeting a new crop of young poets. All this new-ness has me thinking about individuality, so this brings back this splendid stanza from Hopkins.

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
        Deals out that being indoors each one dwells:
        Selves -- goes itself: myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

The great oak, the jays and the birds and the poetry students I don't know yet, all crying What I do is me; for that I came.

4 comments:

Leslie said...

Mark--The easiest way to indent is to use the non-breaking space html several times (&nbsp &nbsp, etc.) until you have it looking like you want.

Alexis said...

Congrats on your Stanford gig. Too bad I do not belong to that "new crop of young poets."

Mark Doty said...

Thank you Leslie, I didn't know that!

galincal said...

The jays might be Steller's Jay (with crest) or scrub jays (no crest). The little birds might be Oregon Juncos...they benignly look like tiny executioners?