Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Randall Jarrell: The Mockingbird

Look one way and the sun is going down,
Look the other, and the moon is rising.
The sparrow’s shadow’s longer than the lawn.
The bats squeak: “Night is here”; the birds cheep: “Day is gone.”
On the willow’s highest branch, monopolizing
Day and night, cheeping, squeaking, soaring,
The mockingbird is imitating life.

All day the mockingbird has owned the yard.
As light first woke the world, the sparrows trooped
Onto the seedy lawn: the mockingbird
Chased them off shrieking. Hour by hour, fighting hard
To make the world his own, he swooped
On thrushes, thrashers, jays, and chickadees–
At noon he drove away a big black cat.

Now, in the moonlight, he sits here and sings. 
A thrush is singing, then a thrasher, then a jay– 
Then, all at once, a cat begins meowing. 
A mockingbird can sound like anything. 
He imitates the world he drove away 
So well for a minute, in the moonlight, 
Which one’s the mockingbird? which one’s the world?

From Jarrell's last collection, The Lost World (1965): poems about the loss of serenity. In three stanzas this one contains Jarrell's view of his own life, which he ended soon after.

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