be open to it...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Lew Welch

[I saw myself]

I saw myself
a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it

and vowed
always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where
ring is what a

bell does


Circle imagery figures in a vital way in many of Lew Welch’s works. Here, the reader is presented with the circle’s almost timeless quality – the ring within the stream. The clarity of the water is both primal and perfect. Bone, as animal structure, is not the image that Welch wants to engender; instead, he considers bone as human essence, as truth. The it of the poem is never disclosed, allowing for a multitude of possibilities. Adding to this notion, Welch writes of the need for this flowing to continue.

A shift then takes place in the two closing stanzas. Ring, in zen-like fashion, changes context and form – from circle to sound. Temple bells are an integral part of zen communities – and the sound of the bell should not be separated from the human experience or, in this case, the poetic experience. Sounds from the bell are the external and internal voices of the poem. Ultimately, the ringing becomes the poem – not this poem, but poem as universal … the voice of the poet. Enlightenment pulls the rope. Maybe, as Billy Collins has written in “Japan,” the bell is the world. Or, the bell could be the form, the page, or simply – and beautifully – the day.

“Does” is a powerful choice of end word for this piece. An action, both promising and continual, moving in front of the speaker. The reader. The writer.


32poems said...

Thank you for the suggestion on what to take to LA. I'll definitely take Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. I read that book in college, and I barely remember it. Sad, I know.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

You can't go wrong with Winterson.