A Surgery for One

January 23, 2014

A hunting at winter’s dawn,
evening’s half-night:
an owl preforms
a surgery for one:
one muskrat, one  squirrel.
Whatever. It prefers
to eat lemmings.

The frogs have all sunk
into the stiff mud,
innocent of such solitude.
This night’s too long
for them to sing through
—and they know it—
so deep is the water
that lies beneath them.


3 Responses to “A Surgery for One”

  1. extrasimile Says:

    And Thomas you think so well about it. ‘Metaphysical fire’, eh? I like that—I may use that one of these days, something to keep the chill of this cold, cold winter at bay. [Though I am unsure what kind of material fuel would burn in such a blaze—and my mind is running to the heretical here, so I will not start speculating.] Anyway, I was trying something new here—venturing a little way a way from a typical Jim Kleinhenz poem. I don’t quite want to say minimalism here, but something in that direction. I’ve been reading quite a bit of Emily Dickinson lately, and while it’s quite clear to me I’m no Emily Dickinson—I think it’s been influencing what I’ve been writing. She’s a very prepossessing poet. It’s like playing with fire in the ice box. [Now, I don’t quite know what that means.]
    Anyway…John, thank you. That first line could easily become ‘a hunt at winter’s dawn’—three nice iambic feet, and while anything with three feet interests me, I think hunting the better choice [hunting, haunting, harrowing].
    Thomas, I think the night I had in mind might just be ‘winter’. Whether we can speak of frogs ‘knowing’ anything is problematical I guess, but I don’t quite want to say that they don’t know anything either. And the owl, and those lemmings…my understanding is that the lemmings throw themselves over the cliff only when the lemming population is in danger of exceeding the existing food source. Now how would the lemmings know that?
    The over-soul? I admire Emerson as much as anyone, but let me just say that the danger that most new conceptions of ‘god’ is that they entangle ‘nature’ with the traditional ‘founding fathers of the church’ definition. And sloppy thinking results. Of course, there is that Hindu influence…
    It is going down to 6 degrees tonight on Long Island—nothing br Wisconsin weather, eh Thomas?—still time to add another log to the metaphysics. Thanks again, guys, for reading… and thinking.

  2. Thomas Davis Says:

    There is a qualitative difference to this poem, Jim. It approaches imagistic and, except for the last two lines, would let one think that you are stepping away from the deepness of the metaphysical fire of most of your work. I love good imagistic poetry. Ethel is clearly the more talented poet in our family. But the images in this work, building from the owl’s precise surgery for a meal to the frogs “…sunk
    into the stiff mud,
    innocent of such solitude.”
    end up being more than emotional tour d force.

    The line, “innocent of such solitude,” followed by
    “This night’s too long
    for them to sing through”
    gives us a clue that the poem is more than it seems at first. Frogs knowing that the night is too long to sing through? There is a darkness here, followed by the final two lines:
    “so deep is the water
    that lies beneath them.”
    Frogs are often in water, but water that is so deep beneath them that they know the night is too long to sing through? I take that night is a metaphor not unlike the metaphor in my two companion poems, “Encounter with a Gray Morph Owl” and “Carver of Birds.”
    The idea of deep water beneath the owls seems to me to be, not unlike Ralph Waldo Emerson’s idea of the oversoul, an eternity that goes on forever underlying the life of frogs, owls, and the rest of creation living on earth. You almost seem to be hinting of a depth beyond the night where owls conduct surgery on
    “one muskrat, one squirrel.
    Whatever. It prefers
    to eat lemmings.”
    The lemmings that march mindlessly over cliffs to their deaths, to night, to the transcendentalism of deep water inside the night. As usual, quite a poem, Jim, when you think about it.

  3. John Stevens Says:

    Marvellous first line Jim. In fact, on second thoughts, the first line and the closing line of each stanza are really arresting. The whole piece captures one’s attention!

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