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Richard Greenfield
Richard Greenfield

Hither Come Hither

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, December 14, 2018.
About this Poem 

“The title of the poem alludes to Amiens's song (‘Under the greenwood tree…’) in Shakespeare's As You Like It and to William Blake's "Song: Memory, hither come." I wrote this poem while at the Willapa Bay AiR artist-in-residence program, located on a remote peninsula on the Washington State coast, in a cabin surrounded by red alders. I was reading a field guide entry on red alders when a bird slammed into the large window in front of my desk and dropped down into the ferns—I was startled. The poem tries to capture all of the levels of engagement with the forest—the red alders' part in the ecosystem, my struggle to avoid metaphysical and romantic reductions of the tree, and my meditation on my romance with other forests in my past. The irony in the poem is the way the bird can be seen as an interruption both to communing with nature and writing the poem itself—the act of observing nature through notations further distancing me from it.”
—Richard Greenfield

Hither Come Hither

Still turnstiles framed by a window           the red alders of Willapa Bay


                    [              Then, a red squirrel,
                                   my notation of it
                                   as if it were an upheaval
                                   in daily drifting—            ]

the limbs dangled their catkins      as I upswung to them from within

                    [              A history
                                    of a wet afterbirth
                                   and held in the arms of my mother        ovate
                                   my notation of it         formative for me—        ]

               The signal from branches        in bright green coats, loud                                                                      
                            in the vivified hollow of the swale      in a site
   of gladness (as this gaze would have had it) morning becoming
excessively noon 
                 the gladness
as I waded through it    bathing in forest     shinrin-yoku                                                                                   
                                                                                           in Arashiyama
with her      in twenty-first century style
and in other such claims of the bourgeois traveler



                           [   Why will I not name her    why will I not speak 
                               to her?    I want to spare her   no
                               I want to feel I spared her this historicity
                               and if I explain the gladness   I will harvest it
                               the new sustainability—                                ]


























also      the throngs of phones in front of tourist faces

                         [    Sudden emergency warble in the alder—     ]


                         [    Then, a robin panned 
                              into the plane of glass
                              (my relentless notation of it)
                              flailed off and submerged into the alder
                                                                                      saplings—     ]


                         [     Then I shocked to a finchsong—      ]


                 And I was back to Blake (safe ground) from a near-linnet’s 
                 song ripped from itself into this alien, human, distanced, 
                 tribal ritual, convey it or to channel it        vatic


         The composer near me said there were three forms of listening: 
the sensuous plane, the expressive plane, and the sheerly musical plane, but 
but we preferred it scaled into the diatonic


with no chromatic alterations



so that much was missed



          Blake said I’ll drink of the clear stream—he would not sing—
        and this was the grief: the fish of the sighers’ stream were fish
caught within a thimble-sized drinking glass
                                                                                                     dumb fancies

















     






Or was it the decomposing fish of Agassiz, finally described?


                         [    Then a green humming bird floated before me                                         
                              my notation of it—                                    ]


                         [    What is this false history?  what I
                             is this false history?—                ]


My alder leaves are serrated     and here comes meta phor

                                                             my use of the window as a frame
                                                                      
                                                               my subjectivity
                 spored into the air between our limbs
                   lodging into evergreen porousness
                  swelling through the rains into a soft 
                         blanketing moss-future






We want time to have happened before we did
but not after we did
the forest was here for us to arrive within
                                                                   [we paid our admission
                                                                   we paid to feed the deer  ]







































         The red alders on the edge of the continent will hear 
          the shallow breath outside the mouth of the creation

         without us, a bombast torn into the plane of silence 

           as the shelf slips at last into the eustatic Pacific

         we distance ourselves from our bodies
         these storehouses of bloodless meat erected on feet

         and whatever is made of alder is alder








                                               Yes now unlatch 
                                               the lock
                                                from this gland 
                                               morning’s sap
                                                into an instant 
                                               amber
                                                thought leaked 
                                                onto the lichen 
                                                 bole
                                               hatched through 
                                                  the window

Copyright © 2018 by Richard Greenfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Richard Greenfield. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 14, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

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A Visit from St. Nicholas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house  
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;  
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,  
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;  
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;  
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,  
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,  
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,  
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,  
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.  
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow  
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,  
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,  
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,  
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.  
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,  
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!  
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!  
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!  
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"  
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;  
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,  
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.  
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof  
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,  
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.  
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,  
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;  
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.  
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!  
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!  
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow  
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,  
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;  
He had a broad face and a little round belly,  
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.  
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;  
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,  
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;  
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,  
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,  
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;  
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,  
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle,  
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

 

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O, the legendary light,
Gleaming goldenly in night
     Like the stars above,
Beautiful, like lights in dream,
Eight, the taper-flames that stream
     All one glory and one love.

In our Temple, magical—
Memories, now tragical—
Holy hero-hearts aflame
With a glory more than fame;
There where a shrine is every sod,
     Every grave, God’s golden ore,
With a paean whose rhyme to God,
     Lit these lamps of yore.

Lights, you are a living dream,
Faith and bravery you beam,
     Youth and dawn and May.
Would your beam were more than dream,
Would the light and love you stream,
     Stirred us, spurred us, aye!

Fabled memories of flame,
Till the beast in man we tame,
Tyrants bow to truth, amain,
Brands and bullets yield to brain,
Guns to God, and shells to soul,
Hounds to heart resign the role,
Pillared lights of liberty,
In your fairy flames, we’ll see
Faith’s and freedom’s Phoenix-might,
The Omnipotence of Right.

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Mississippi National River & Recreation Area. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service
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The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
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The snow lies deep upon the ground,
And winter's brightness all around
Decks bravely out the forest sere,
With jewels of the brave old year.
The coasting crowd upon the hill
With some new spirit seems to thrill;
And all the temple bells achime.
Ring out the glee of Christmas time.

In happy homes the brown oak-bough
Vies with the red-gemmed holly now;
And here and there, like pearls, there show
The berries of the mistletoe.
A sprig upon the chandelier
Says to the maidens, "Come not here!"
Even the pauper of the earth
Some kindly gift has cheered to mirth!

Within his chamber, dim and cold,
There sits a grasping miser old.
He has no thought save one of gain,—
To grind and gather and grasp and drain.
A peal of bells, a merry shout
Assail his ear: he gazes out
Upon a world to him all gray,
And snarls, "Why, this is Christmas Day!"

No, man of ice,—for shame, for shame!
For "Christmas Day" is no mere name.
No, not for you this ringing cheer,
This festal season of the year.
And not for you the chime of bells
From holy temple rolls and swells.
In day and deed he has no part—
Who holds not Christmas in his heart!


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Between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice, Today

I read a Korean poem
with the line “Today you are the youngest
you will ever be.” Today I am the oldest
I have been. Today we drink
buckwheat tea. Today I have heat
in my apartment. Today I think
about the word chada in Korean.
It means cold. It means to be filled with.
It means to kick. To wear. Today we’re worn.
Today you wear the cold. Your chilled skin.
My heart kicks on my skin. Someone said
winter has broken his windows. The heat inside
and the cold outside sent lightning across glass.
Today my heart wears you like curtains. Today
it fills with you. The window in my room
is full of leaves ready to fall. Chada, you say. It’s tea.
We drink. It is cold outside.
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2018
Fall-Winter 2018 issue of American Poets