Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Spire by Ellen Bryant Voigt


The Spire

In the Bavarian steeple, on the hour, 
two figures emerge from their scalloped house 
carrying sledges that they clap, in turn, 
against the surface of the bell. By legend 
they are summer and winter, youth and age, 
as though the forces of plenty and of loss 
played equally on the human soul, extracted 
easily the same low bronze note spreading 
upward from the encumbrance of the village, 
past alluvial fields to the pocked highland 
where cattle shift their massive heads 
at this dissonance, this faint redundant 
pressure in the ears, in the air. 
 
From the village, the mountain seems 
a single stone, a single blank completion. 
Seeing the summit pierce the abstract heavens, 
we reconstruct the valley on the mountain— 
a shepherd propped against his crook, birds 
enthralled on a branch, the branch feathering 
the edge of the canvas—transposing 
such forms as can extend the flawed earth 
and embody us, intact, unaltering, among 
the soft surprising trees of childhood, 
mimosa, honey locust and willow. 
 
Wood in the midst of woods, the village 
houses are allied in a formal shape 
beside a stream, the streets concluding 
at the monument. Again the ravishing moment 
of the bell: the townspeople, curious 
or accustomed, stop to count the strokes, 
odd or even—the confectioner counting out 
the lavender candies for his customer, 
the butcher, the greengrocer, the surgeon 
and the constable—as the housewife 
stands on the stoop, shaking her mop, 
and sees the dust briefly veil the air, 
an algebra of swirling particles.
  
 

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