Poem: “The World Looks Back” (two versions)

This poem of mine was inspired by an interview with Walter Wangerin Jr. at the 2006 Calvin College Festival of Faith & Writing. I’m not sure which version I like best, so I welcome reader feedback in the comments box. The first version below is the original; the second is forthcoming in Southern Poetry Review.

The World Looks Back (v.1)

Give me the disinterested miracle,
someone else’s breakfast
made bigger, the fingertip sheared by the mower
rejoined cozy as a found button.
Give me the half-wild cat’s eye
luminescent in the twilit hedge,
her awareness catching me up in its 
      dark river.
She shakes the dust from her ruffed face,
rolls at my feet, then bolts — but not far,
looking back, her startled face fringed 
      by ladyslippers.
Let me pass, mystified, through her intense, 
      hidden story.
Why else would I shiver in the April dawn
to watch two scraps of blue defend their 
      nesting box —
sit on a pole, fly in circles, return, repeat —
a dull, dangerous life, but not my own.
I want to hear the dogwood,
its squared-off ivory flowers
tipped with rust like sheets stained by childbirth,
rejoicing in its mission.
The voice that moves the scenery
sometimes gives it lines. So give me the angel
telling my neighbor to catch a train.
The two-headed rabbits, beloved monsters
of the tabloids, the pepper with a baby inside.
I don’t want to be the last man alive in 
      the restaurant,
even if I can cook. Bees are weaving
through the pink streamers of the weeping cherry.
One interrupts its geometric language
to assault my kitchen window
with dreadful, comical thumps.
Good glass between us
keeping our lives diverse.
Let me be here and also
the strange mosaic in his eye.


********
The World Looks Back (v.2)

Give me the disinterested miracle,
someone else’s breakfast
made bigger, the fingertip sheared by the mower
rejoined cozy as a found button.
Give me the half-wild cat’s eye
luminescent in the twilit hedge.
She shakes the dust from her ruffed face,
rolls at my feet, then bolts — but not far,
looking back, her startled face fringed 
      by ladyslippers.

Why else would I shiver in the April dawn
to watch two scraps of blue defend their 
      nesting box —
sit on a pole, fly in circles, return, repeat —
a dull, dangerous life, but not my own.
I want to hear the dogwood,
its squared-off ivory flowers
tipped with rust like sheets stained by childbirth,
rejoicing in its mission.
The voice that moves the scenery
sometimes gives it lines. So give me the angel
telling my neighbor to catch a train.
The two-headed rabbits, beloved monsters
of the tabloids, the pepper with a baby inside.
I don’t want to be the last man alive in 
      the restaurant,
even if I can cook. 

                              Bees are weaving
through the pink streamers of the weeping cherry.
One interrupts its geometric language
to assault my kitchen window
with dreadful, comical thumps.
Let me be here and also
the wild mosaic in his eye.

         forthcoming in Southern Poetry Review

One comment on “Poem: “The World Looks Back” (two versions)

  1. Alegria Imperial says:

    I like version 2 better but don’t ask me for details. I don’t have the facility to review poetry. The truth is I’m learning deeply just now about an art I’ve been dipping into rather like an untrained child. I did study literature and poetry long ago in college and went on loving Eliot,Yeats, Lorca, Rilke, Spender, and recently Updike, etc., and now, you.

    Your poem resonates much of the indifference with which humans look at the world. How so much of it abound in ‘disinterested miracles’ indeed and how much of it define our existence; and yet, how blind we really could be. Still, in spite of humans, miracles—as is the nature of Nature—just won’t crumble from blind stares. A ‘ startled face fringed/by lady slippers’ for one or ‘scraps of blue’ on April dawns.

    Oh yes, I like how the line of the bees string past the beginning of the stanza the way I would follow its flight on the glass, blessed glass. And the ‘pink streamers of weeping cherry’ that always snag hurrying steps to a halt.

    I once stumbled on a feathery stone right on my apartment’s sliding door. And I thought I should write an epitaph. But it’s a short narrative that I spun.

    Stone on my path
    perhaps? But a sparrow
    side-lain, staring.

    The flight quite swift
    arrow-taut toward water
    fooled its foolish heart.

    How could pea-eyes
    know traps between air
    and sky could seem nothing?

    Tiny hearts spurt, sighting
    their longing: to a sweet sparrow
    wings on water.

    Flitting straight on,
    heart on wings
    the water a beak within–

    but glass
    is also water.

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