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Howard Nemerov - The Blue Swallows

Across the millstream below the bridge 
Seven blue swallows divide the air 
In shapes invisible and evanescent, 
Kaleidoscopic beyond the mind’s 
Or memory’s power to keep them there. 

“History is where tensions were,” 
“Form is the diagram of forces.” 
Thus, helplessly, there on the bridge, 
While gazing down upon those birds— 
How strange, to be above the birds!— 
Thus helplessly the mind in its brain 
Weaves up relation’s spindrift web, 
Seeing the swallows’ tails as nibs 
Dipped in invisible ink, writing… 

Poor mind, what would you have them write? 
Some cabalistic history 
Whose authorship you might ascribe 
To God? to Nature? Ah, poor ghost, 
You’ve capitalized your Self enough. 
That villainous William of Occam 
Cut out the feet from under that dream 
Some seven centuries ago. 
It’s taken that long for the mind 
To waken, yawn and stretch, to see 
With opened eyes emptied of speech 
The real world where the spelling mind 
Imposes with its grammar book 
Unreal relations on the blue 
Swallows. Perhaps when you will have 
Fully awakened, I shall show you 
A new thing: even the water 
Flowing away beneath those birds 
Will fail to reflect their flying forms, 
And the eyes that see become as stones 
Whence never tears shall fall again. 

O swallows, swallows, poems are not 
The point. Finding again the world, 
That is the point, where loveliness 
Adorns intelligible things 
Because the mind’s eye lit the sun. 

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Added: Apr 6 2005 | Viewed: 3820 times | Comments and analysis of The Blue Swallows by Howard Nemerov Comments (1)

The Blue Swallows - Comments and Information

Poet: Howard Nemerov
Poem: The Blue Swallows
Poem of the Day: Sep 23 2007

Comment 1 of 1, added on September 23rd, 2007 at 10:08 AM.

I love how this magnificent poem enfolds the principal of Occam’s Razor in the narrative flow---entia non multiplicanda praeter necessitatem: entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity. The poem exudes the poet’s attempted restraint in trying not to describe and interpret the explosion of images and stimuli of the grand experience of the moment. Impossible! Nemerov takes us on a long journey through human history in a short poem so rich that it drips with meaning!


art chapman from United States

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