Thursday, April 20, 2023

a diminished thing


Ovenbird, detail, by John James Audubon. 

Dear Poetry,

You know how it is; somethings just really grab you, haunt you; dig you, explain you, get you, keep you.  I have been kept by this little phrase for nearly a year now:

"...what to make of a diminished thing."

This phrase is often misquoted in my mind as "what to do with a diminished thing," which is, my friends, the essence of poetry:  'to do' is very like 'to make,' but it is also planets, galaxies, apart.  Let me expand like these galaxies:  you 'make' both a sandwich and sense.  To 'make' is to interpret in some cases and senses.  To 'do' is nearly any action under the sun.  You do not really 'do' sense or sandwiches, even though you 'do' lunch.  Hmm, yes, you are right;  in the UK, they do say, let me 'do' you a bun or a pastie or something or other, but generally, doing is kind of a more active feeling.  Would that behemoth shoe & culture making(!?) machine have advertised "Just Make it?"

Well, now that I have you halfway down the shoe aisle of the big box store, forget all that, turn around and join me here again, while we do this Robert Frost poem together; it's called 

The Oven Bird.

There is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten.
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all.
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.

Your song of the day, the Ovenbird.  And, did you catch all that 'mid' and how it relates to 'dim?'  Very lovely!