“See, they return, one, and by one” (Pound)

young buck


I was at my desk, writing a sentence that wouldn’t end, when I looked out to meet the young buck’s eye. He was eating periwinkle at the foot of an arbutus. He is the one who arrives with the bigger doe, he is the one who stands in the grass as she races into the woods when I come out to swish them away with my hands. Is he her son, her lover, her autumn companion? They are animals from a story, high-stepping across the moss. Swished into the woods, it’s not long before they return.

See, they return, one, and by one,              
With fear, as half-awakened; 
As if the snow should hesitate           
And murmur in the wind,      
            and half turn back;     
These were the “Wing’d-with-Awe,”         


A sentence that wouldn’t end, taking me back, back, to the year I was 23, unsettled, trying to find a place for myself. A sentence that holds clauses, agreements, too many verbs, an unhappy subject. I walked at night under the old oaks along Rockland Avenue, trying to find the most direct route to water. At the edge of the sea, foghorns. Were those stars in the distance or freighters waiting to be guided to shore?


Some nights I lie awake and listen for owls. A single barred was calling down towards the lake. I keep paper and a pencil by my bed for the sentence that won’t end, won’t ever let me finish it, sort out its punctuation, Who cooks for you, who cooks for you all, moonlight through fog, the dreams I had when I was 23 still troubling my sleep, the sentence, the one that goes on forever, asks to be mapped, changes its cadence, invites an oboe to sing obbligato, who cooks for you, half the call, then nothing, a few drips of water falling from the edge of the roof above my pillow.

And tonight the heavy earth is falling
away from all other stars in the loneliness.

Note: the first lines of verse are Ezra Pound’s, from “The Return”. Rilke provides the next couplet, via Robert Bly, from “Autumn”.

4 thoughts on ““See, they return, one, and by one” (Pound)”

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