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A dog walk. An ancient epithet. A poem drawn, evolved.
Read time: about 3 minutes, more if you study the handwritten drafts. This week: I know. I know. I said I’d go to a bi-weekly schedule. But I couldn’t help myself. Maybe I start with the bi-weeklies beginning today.
Nothing new in the Boulangerie this week.
Why don’t you share this with a friend who walks a dog or looks at trees in spring?
On March 6, I wrote to a friend
It’s nice to see the days getting a little longer. Rosie and I can venture out just before dawn comes, and after the walk, I do some chicken chores. (They're laying again, BTW!) Lately I’ve been watching the dawn on clear mornings illuminate the tops of the trees around our place, and it is a strangely beautiful thing to see. Reminds me of the old Greek trope of dawn coming with rosy fingers. They touch the treetops first. Anyway, it’s nice to feel spring coming, but it’s also weird and somewhat frightening, actually, to have spring arriving so early.
Pre-dawn walks figured into a short exchange I had with a former student earlier this month. She’s deeply interested in poetry, and the topic of poetry’s place in life came up in a “flunch” (faculty-lunch) we had in March.
The past few days, I’ve tried to turn the email and the lunch conversations into verse. The work is still going on in my head, of course, and is hardly complete. Such things, I’ve learned, never find their end. They are ended.
I thought I’d share the evolution of the words, which now stand like this:
I Lope complete, business done -- She lowers her haunches, tail tight against the pre-dawn chill, her back to the east. Rosie's leash dangles. Like me, she tilts her head up, up to the still barely unleafed, unsapped spring trees before us. High above, wooden knuckles extend. Dark against dark, fibrous fingers crown greedy sweet gums, bumpy but not yet budding. Petal-less. Patient old hickory sleeping, still. Rosy-fingered dawn lightly caresses the heights, glossing twigs against dull dusk. II Now, down reaches the bolder dawn, grasps elbowed branches, knotty limbs with sweet radiance. Liquid light flows down where limbs coyly conjoin; down, down -- to scatter a new glow that refracts softened illumination; down to bathe trunks' low root spreads, encircled with dew-bejeweled grasses. Yes! Lit up like that in a minute. Or two. Rosie unfurls her tail. Haunches haunched, she turns, as if to see if I have seen. She leads me to the house and to breakfast. Behind us, limbs and trunks shudder, already awakened gently by a gentle lover.
How it evolved on paper
I mentioned the dawn episode to my student: “I walk my dog before dawn usually, and this spring we were a little late one morning,” I wrote. “We were out when the dawn was almost there, and the air was shockingly clear. Sun peeking up on the horizon, trees still bare in early spring. The dawn’s rosy fingers easily touched the tops of the tallest, highest branches stretching up.”
I resolved then to take the episode and turn it into verse.
The first stab looked like this. I played with it in revisions, arrows, inserts, and crossed out words:
The second run through built upon a clean copy. I had determined I could make the lines of the first draft conform — somewhat at least — to sonnet form. An octet and a sestet, unrhymed, scanned as I like ’em (i.e., not like English teachers like). Two sonnets in succession, one per page. You can see unintegrated notations just hanging in the margins.
Third draft, again on a clean copy; I played with the lines again:
From the third revision came the current state that appears at the top of this post.
We do see anew when we listen to an inner voice. It’s a good thing for spring. You live it more clearly, filtered that way through verse.
Got a comment?
Tags: poetry, sonnet, dog walk, sunrise, rosy-fingered dawn, metaphor, Rosie the Wonder Dog
Links, cited and not, some just interesting
A nice piece of work on a well-known epithet. Kottke, Jason. “Tracking the Appearances of ‘Rosy-Fingered Dawn’ in The Odyssey.” Kottke.Org (blog), April 3, 2018. https://kottke.org/18/04/tracking-the-appearances-of-rosy-fingered-dawn-in-the-odyssey.
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