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FROM A BALCONY

A flock of goosanders fishes in the Straits,

as ubiquitous oyster catchers whistle

on the shore. In the early evening

the air about our balcony throngs

with birds – swallows whispering, swifts screeching,

two ring-necked doves cooing in the clematis,

and a small flock of sparrows chattering

below – as the last sun shades the mountains

opposite. By night three fishermen

make their profaning way along the pier

with swaying torches. The seeming darkness

above the peaks is thronged with unnamed stars

we cannot see, and their imagined,

and fabled harmonies.

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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1 Response
  • Clive Watkins
    August 30, 2021

    I like this a lot, David—but then I am sucker for loco-descriptive poems, especially ones that, like this, seem to suggest more than they say. The fishermen make ‘their profaning way’ along the pier and, in doing so, establish the scene (and its moment) as sacred. ‘The seeming darkness / above the peaks is thronged with unnamed stars / we cannot see’, as the air about the balcony is ‘thronged’ with birds — these being lovingly named. Birds are stars are birds. The stars, being unseen, are both present and not present: they are there only to the ‘eye of faith’; but their absent-present light stands in a pattern of parallels and contrasts with the torches of the fishermen, whose light, though brighter because closer at hand, will prove more short-lived. Also, and perhaps not irrelevantly, for this aging atheist the conclusion brings back a powerful memory from his far-off Christian childhood of services in the school chapel and of one of my favourite hymns — the one that begins ‘The spacious firmament on high’. It’s by Josepsh Addison, of course. You will be familiar with the opening lines of the final stanza:

    What though in solemn silence all
    Move round the dark terrestrial ball;
    What though nor real voice nor sound
    Amidst their radiant orbs be found?

    The whole poem can be found here: https://poets.org/poem/spacious-firmament-high.

    A fine and understated poem, David.

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