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.