Flight Arrested and Prolonged

It is a splendidly gorgeous title. Tell Me Again How the White Heron Rises and Flies Across the Nacreous River at Twilight Toward the Distant Islands — a collection of poems by Hayden Carruth in which there appears this ending to a poem entitled “Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets” …

Reality is an impasse. Tell me again
How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies forever
          across the nacreous river at twilight
Toward the distant islands.

In situ, the lines have the heron rising “from among the reeds”; the title simply has the white heron rise. And in the poem the heron flies “forever”. In the title the motion takes place in space towards the distant islands but there is no hint that the action takes an untoward time.

We are not asked to ascertain which is better: the title or the poem’s concluding lines. But are we to arrive at some arresting image of flight? Are we to remember Keat’s Ode on a Grecian Urn and be reconciled to the heron as a beloved depiction in a scene of some imagined ekphrasis? Lending thereby all the more freight to that echoing “how”.

And so for day 370

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