five poems / five days #6

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Ravi Shankar

Shapes in the Wilderness

Beneath, beyond, away, other than,
The are who we are happens contrapuntally
To the observation of the are being.
Say you and I are flashlights that shining
Out from a clearing into the forest
Shape the forest, providing trees leaves,
Mulch moisture, vivifying what world
Would fit the light of our partial rounds.
Dense, multifarious, the dark wood
Has no essence but in fleeting swaths
Of light that in illumination, define.
The fact of the flashlight, battery and bulb,
Are the only a priories in existence,
Though we cannot know their constituency,
Being their constituency.


This is such a beautiful mastery of language - a tight view of reality. A ghostly shell - trees caught in harsh light. The lines are thick with strong rhythms and melody. Such an unusual opening line sets the stage for a poem that, at least on one level, explores the struggle to connect with the world, with the planet itself.

Shankar is a poet whose style and abilites compare to those of Wallace Stevens. He expresses a total command of language and content - yet it’s a command that is not contrived in the least, that does not aspire to what it is not. The more I read Shankar, the more I gain.

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