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When Delmore Schwartz Reads About Tadpoles In Encyclopædia Britannica, At Yaddo

When Delmore Schwartz reads about tadpoles

in Encyclopædia Britannica, at Yaddo,

something happens inside the stem of poetry,

something elastic, and it bends a little.

He’s living through the winter in Saratoga Springs,

outside his habitat of choice,

wriggling in the histories of complicated angers,

imagining a creature unaffected by light.

Such are the options of nature, which collects

and pays out on its own time.

Thoughts accumulate and shed behind his unavailable eyes.

Somewhere in the confusing trees, a Palm Warbler

rests in its migratory path, wags a delicate tail,

and whistles so sweetly, you’d never think

of all it needs just to survive.

Even when it’s calm, the resting heart’s moving,

brandishing bloods, renewing itself,

depleting, renewing. Are you there,

American poetry? Isn’t it exhausting?

From where he sits in the farmhouse,

Delmore’s parents are indistinct as material

floating in the fluid that supports the brain,

little dots swimming in the intrathecal space,

shifting in time, and he wants his memories of them

to be remote, and pure as a child’s brainstem,

tentative, involuntary, practically larval.

from On This Day in Poetry HistoryFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2016
Used with permissions of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Published in Amy Newman Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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