The Bigness of Small Poems – # 45 in a Series – A Small Gem by Patrick Lane (1939-2019)

A poem by Patrick Lane: Calligraphy by Martin Jackson, 2000

The benefit of cleaning up a chaotic office! Finding this exquisite small poem by Patrick Lane. As I remember him telling me, and here my memory may be a touch thin in places, this poem was part of a larger piece and his “Beloved”, Lorna Crozier, told him this was the poem!

I appreciate the complexity of this poem. This is where I can get geeky about craft! The extra richness its syntax provides. And the line breaks. So much to feast on! Beneath the tree; glutted on winter. That meaning. Then this: Beneath the tree; glutted on winter apples, seven sparrows lie. The wonderful delay of the verb! Then the more of: drunk, beating small wings on snow.

And then the turn. The leap and the clear evidence of a master poet’s mind at work. The move from pure image to something more complex and infused with thought. The alchemy Lane creates as if the these birds could transform ice and snow into air, something to fly free inside!

And where this poem flies me is my own wings beating against death these days. Patrick’s, Merwin’s, Hoagland’s and the death in December of my my dear friend in poetry, Andy Parker from Houston, Texas.

My version of these lines. The comfort it brings:

as if he could fly into it
and make of death an element as free as air.

Maybe gratitude, not death, is what will free me of some of my sadness. The gratitude for the gift of poetry as a poet and teacher, Patrick gave so many of us.



  1. Joy Zabala
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The earthworm of gratitude turns the soil of sadness and breathes life into the impossibility of a future.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this Joy!

  3. Sandy Martin
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for finding Patrick among your paper chaos Richard and for sharing such beauty. I, too, am finding Patrick among the stacks in my studio, some neatly filed “Patrick” and others left loose on my desk, a shelf, an ottoman, all unintended placements. But what a pleasure to find them by surprise, over and over again.
    It seems a bit of a crime that even sadness has its own profound beauty, makes the despair almost unbearable, filling us to the point of madness. And then we remember to breathe, to expand our lungs and the air around us stills and for that moment, that is enough.

  4. Richard Osler
    Posted March 16, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    You just wrote a prose poem! Bless you for this on going conversation.

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