Just yesterday my poem lamenting the power Of time to sweep away all trace of the beautiful Seemed done at last, but the light this morning Shows it to be a sketch, evidence that my vision Cleared as I slumbered, that my sense of beauty Grows in the night like corn or bamboo. Maybe a poem in praise of time
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If a life needn’t be useful to be meaningful, Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few, The few, say, who view the sun as a god And consider basking a form of worship. As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard Or a pair of ice skates or a bag of golf clubs, Though I can’t argue their lives are useful, I’d be reluctant to claim they have no meaning Even if no one observes their display of mastery. No one is listening to the librarian I can call to mind as she practices, after work, In her flat on Hoover Street, the viola da gamba In the one hour of day that for her is golden. So what if she’ll never be good enough To give a concert people will pay to hear? When I need to think of her with an audience, I can imagine the ghosts of composers dead for centuries, Pleased to hear her doing her best with their music. And isn’t it pleasing, as we walk at dusk to our cars Parked on Hoover Street, after a meeting On saving a shuttered hotel from the wrecking ball, To catch the sound of someone filling a room We won’t be visiting with a haunting solo? And then the gifts we receive by imagining How down at the beach today surfers made sure The big waves we weren’t there to appreciate Didn’t go begging for attention. And think of the sunlight we failed to welcome, How others stepped forward to take it in.
Carl Dennis was born on September 17, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, and attended both Oberlin College and the University of Chicago before completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Minnesota. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.