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“The Center Cannot Hold”

rachelr's picture

reflections on a Walk

Where weathered rock and flowing water meet

When hot, moist air retreats at summer’s end;

Above, the vivid boughs do speak of fall

While underfoot the earth prepares for sleep.

The sparrow hops upon the iron rail

While under trees cicadas speak their death.


The spider web is sparkling with the dew

The muted hew of dirt is underfoot

While I, whose legs are far too often crossed

Burden the path with far too heavy steps.

How do I come here free from worldly thoughts?

Not Chevalier but Walker is my aim.


Where do I walk when walking is my choice?

With no prescribed agenda to be met?

My life of now, encompassed by this place,

Responsibility confines my walk

Crossed only when I dare to stray from that

Which is my chosen path for future walks.


What is my center now will soon be changed

As I move here and there across the space

Where in the world shall I myself be placed?

Self-centric? Or perhaps just lost in space.

Dreaming or waking? When do I best know

“To sleep, perchance to Dream; Ay, there's the rub.”


Does present ever fail to draw from past?

How many feet have travelled this same path?

Or in my travels have I made my own

Path winding on, from birth until my death?

“Slouching to-wards Bethlehem to be born”

Towards Second Coming on a night ride home.


As sirens sound above the falling rain

And light no longer streams from overhead

Self-consciousness rises within my breast

As too infrequently do I here stray;

What here is safe? How far can I go on?

Beyond the known and then to further press?


I know much less than I should perhaps know

About this place that is my center now.

Reflecting here I do critique myself

On what I see and what I choose to not.

For in the end when all is said and done

The path of life is never travelled twice. 



Anne Dalke's picture

Exploring form

what I appreciate most here is your taking the risk of experimenting w/ form, of recording your Thoreauvian "wander" in the shape of two photographs and a poem, rather than a conventional linear narrative or analysis. Doing so opens up quite a range of possibilities, especially in the context of a course on "ecological imaginings," in which we're going to be pushing hard on questions of representation, asking what forms of language and aesthetics might be most effective, as we attempt to hear, and voice, the world in which we live, and which we alter by doing so.

So let me begin the push! I wonder why you chose "quotations" rather than 'direct speech"--photographs by others (yes?--if so, they need citations) and horey old quotes from Yeats and Shakespeare...why, in an assignment to go "see for yourself," draw on those resources? I wonder why you chose a very conventional poetic form (rhymed? metered?) rather than a freer sort of one. The larger question I'm creeping up to here is what genres and traditions of writing might best be used, for representing the world as we ourselves (you! yourself!) are experiencing it now, while other symbolic constructions need to be more thoroughly questioned.

Looking forward to continuing this exploration with you--


Smacholdt's picture

I really like how you

I really like how you borrowed from Yeats and Saks but made the message entirely your own. You cover all of your musings about wandering in such an eloquent way. I had a similar experience as you describe in your second stanza where you say that you “burden the path with far too heavy steps.” As I walked through Morris Woods, I felt as though I was in some way intruding on something, even if I was technically allowed to be there. I also thought that your musings about the changing nature of “center” were interesting. How to do you find something as concrete as a center when life itself is so malleable?