Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
Being young, her eyes let in so sharp a light
It crowded memory with green and white,
With skies, and hills, with doors, with printed words,
With downward rain, and downward-drifting birds.
As wakeful as a soldier standing guard
She looked at every flower long and hard,
And scrupulous as old astronomers
At nameless faces looking into hers ,
And being young, she would not turn away.
The light shone in her open eyes all day
As bright as noon on country colorings.
She saw the honor of the shape of things,
And though she saw nowhere two things the same,
Not one but asked her mutely for its name.
She said, "That vine across the arch. That clock.
That windstruck weathervane. That shining rock."
Her body tense and delicate, her head
Pressed eagerly against the light, she said,
That red-lit window-square. That coiling smoke.
That one root lifted till the sidewalk broke.
That warped old man. That dog. That child alone.
That staring face: that mirrored face: my own."
Staring, she thought, "O God-Your morning light
Will kill or blind me soon with too much sight."
But the west wind swung the weathervane to west.
Four-quartered heaven beat inside her breast.
Love raged and came alive and cried aloud,
And set her free, who knew herself avowed.
She understood the rock, the root, the child.
This was the first time ever hill was piled
On hill, and overhead the bright birds flew
For flying's sake, as if their wings were new,
As if earth's air till now had never shaken
To wing or wind or light. Her love was taken
Suddenly into light, and noontime rolled
A flood that filled earth's corners up with gold.
She laughed. "No human creature many a year
Has felt against his eyes the death I fear.
This hurt will heal, God knows, with all He knows,
And I shall die at eighty, I suppose,
So full and overfull so long of love
I shall not know what I am dying of.
And if," she said, "instead the years go by
Faded and fainter till at last I die
In comfort so accustomed it will dim
Even the sudden sight of seraphim,
Then I had rather blindness made that true
Than close my eyes because I wanted to."