Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.

By Laurence Lieberman | Go to book overview

“Camomilla”

Summer is not yet gone, but long ago the leaves have fallen. They
never appeared to gather much sunlight or threw a measurable
shade, even when they were most alive. They hid as long as they
could beneath the white flowers and seemed to turn their faces away.
They were like the faces of frightened people in a war. They silently
wish they were anonymous, but they know that sooner or later
someone will find them out. Everything secret to them will become
commonplace to an army of invading strangers. Every stranger will
know that each native of the defeated place was given at his birth,
like a burden, the names of both his parents and his grandparents
and great-grandparents, until there is scarcely enough room on a
police form for all the names he carries around with him. Just like
such brutally ransacked people, the camomilla leaves turn their faces
away. If I could look toward them long enough in this field, I think
I would find them trying to hide their birthmarks and scars from
me, pretending they had no beards or ribbons or long braids or half-
legible letters from home hidden uselessly beneath their clothes. The
faces of camomilla leaves would wish me away again, wish me back
into the sea again, wish me to leave them alone in peace.

James and Annie spent a couple of summers in Italy, and it was mostly a time of great healing, as indicated by the happy dedication of his last book This Journey to the city of Fano, “where we got well.” He must have taken particular solace from the white camomilla blossoms near the seashore. But toward the end of the last summer, he was struck by the disappearance of the leaves from the plants. How odd that they should have slipped away and vanished so early in the season: “Summer is not yet gone, but long ago the leaves have

-90-

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Clairvoyant with Hunger: Essays on James Dickey, James Wright, W.S. Merwin, Etc.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iv
  • Clairvoyant with Hunger vi
  • Part 1 - James Dickey, Poems from the Eagle’S Mile 1
  • “the Eagle’S Mile” 2
  • “weeds” 7
  • “expanses” 10
  • “farmers” 13
  • “form” 16
  • “poem” 20
  • Homage to the Unburied: a Column - “sleepers” 30
  • “snow Thickets” 35
  • “the Three” 38
  • “the Six” 42
  • “circuit” 46
  • “eagles” 49
  • “night Bird” 51
  • “daybreak” 53
  • Warrior, Visionary, Natural Philosopher: James Dickey’S to the White Sea 56
  • Part 2 - James Wright’S Prose Poems 73
  • Of Two Sublimities: Love Poems “a Small Grove” 74
  • “in Gallipoli” 77
  • “the Gift of Change” 82
  • “flowering Olives” 87
  • “camomilla” 90
  • “may Morning” 96
  • “piccolini” 99
  • “regret for a Spider Web” 103
  • “the Snail at Assisi” 108
  • “the Sunlight Falling at Peace in Moret-Sur-Loing” 114
  • Paradigm for Prose Poems 118
  • “the Secret of Light” 119
  • “bari, Old and Young” 129
  • Part 3 - W.S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 133
  • W. S. Merwin: Apotheosis of the Lepers 134
  • Part 4 - Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 168
  • Igniting Sparks from Tamura’S Smithy 169
  • Part 5 183
  • On the Brink of Secession: Gwendolyn Brooks “the Wall” 184
  • “the Laggard Bird,” by Dunya Mikhail 192
  • David Bottoms’ Grueling Miracle: Faith in Middle Age 219
  • Part 6 - The Pull of the Sentence: on My Influences 250
  • Voice to Voice 251
  • The Most Essential Element of All: an Interview with Laurence Lieberman 269
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