The Old Lake Forms

August 18, 2011

Where it always forms, where the mountains crowd
Against the old ravines, where the deaf owls live
Amongst the mustard plants, where they forgive
—at least forget—the way the ancient cloud
Could hide the rain inside each day’s blue sky.
Sure, they may feign a squawk, these birds, but they
Cannot mimic human speech; they cannot betray
Their lives with simple sentences; nor can they lie.
It’s not the vista of a thousand years
That we all fear, but a thousand seconds,
The time it takes the  cloud to form the rain,
The rain to form the lake, the lake, it’s tears.
When owls view the cloud, they think it’s in their horns.
They think the deaf are dumb. And so the old lake forms.

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4 Responses to “The Old Lake Forms”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    Thoughts within thoughts…
    You know, John, I just might steal that.
    Thanks again for sweating through another, um…thought?

  2. John Stevens Says:

    Ah – wheels within wheels, thoughts within thoughts! Yes, owls did suggest wisdom on my first reading – they must be a ubiquitous symbol. I had not registered Hegel (you’re right there!) but your imagination has produced some evocative images here Jim. I love the way it closes with an echo of the title and opening line (“and so the old lake forms” – magnificent).
    (Excuse the delayed response – I’ve been away again).

  3. extrasimile Says:

    Okay, John, I’ll take a shot at the ‘deaf owl’ thing.
    The deaf owls have roots in parrots (or a bird that can mimic human speech) and that wonderful quote from Hegel: ‘The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk’—which has come to take on a meaning that Hegel would have thought immensely simple: that philosophy only understands when it is too late. A deaf owl would be unable to learn to mimic human speech; a deaf owl of Minerva would be unable to learn to mimic human wisdom.
    Now, do I expect you to read this and say: ‘Oh, yes, of course, he’s referencing Hegel…’? (Excuse me while I swallow a couple of reality pills.)
    Owls do however suggest wisdom and an owl that could speak, perhaps could say something wise. Perhaps this wisdom is the italicized text that they cannot speak—or perhaps that text is the lie they cannot say…
    But the sky is only blue for a moment (or is that simply another deception of the ancient cloud?) the rain is flooding the ravines (or is that too another deception?)…and so the same old lake forms… again.

  4. John Stevens Says:

    There’s beautifully controlled pace and tone here, and the landscape you create is vivid and mysterious. I guess the sonnet form lends some of that quiet authority, but it’s also in images and the sentences. I enjoyed it a lot.
    I’m puzzled once again though. Owls of course are famous for acute hearing … and they are central to the piece … I read again (I’ve only just found this post).


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