This November Reminds Me of Laing

First the trees.

That Time of Year

from Harper’s Magazine, Vol. 186, no. 1112 (January 1943)

by Dilys Bennett Laing

AS PERSONAGES now the trees emerge
Out of anonymous green, each one a forge
That stands in its own color and burns large.

August could scarcely tell sumach from maple,
Birch from oak and larch, or beech from popple.
Now no two maples even are a couple.

Each is a seraph in his own degree
Of gold. He claps his wings in the keen day
And has no peer under the autumn sky.

Verity of the self is only plain
In variation from environs. Green
Summer sucks the individual in.

So does white December. Shortly now
These egos shall retreat, resigned to go
Into the cold incognito of snow.

And then that other thing.

Afternoon of a Forethinker

from Poetry (May 1953)

by Dilys Laing

The rock was hard behind my back
hard as thought and hard as bone
the sky enclosed me like a brain
and the sea burned like a wick

the sea burned and the sea birds flew
as sparks above the spinning flame.
The dark rock shook. I took my name
and flung it at the thinking sky

and the sky gave me nothing back
no wink no word no code no sign
the sea birds rose with beaks of pain
and nailed my mind upon the rock

And perhaps, deo absit, even this.

Forgive Me

Collected in Walter Lowenfels (comp.), The Writing on the Wall: 108 American Poems of Protest (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969)

by Dilys Laing

Forgive me for neglecting to show you that the world is evil.
I had hoped your innocence
would find it good
and teach me what I know to be untrue.

Forgive me for leaving you open to persistent heartbreak
instead of breaking your bright heart with medicinal blows.
I had hoped your eyes would be stars
dispelling darkness wherever you looked.

Forgive me for a love that has delivered you unwarned to treachery.
Now I confess that the world,
more beautiful for your presence,
was not fine enough to warrant my summoning you into it.
My beloved.

  1. thank you for introducing me.’ Forgive me’ resonates. And yet the world I despair in, is the same one my eldest rejoices in. Strange times.

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