[ilds] RG Bitter Lemons -- Tree of Idleness & Swallows Gather

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Tue Jul 17 16:40:20 PDT 2007

Dear Reading Group:

The next chapters in /Bitter Lemons/ open for consideration will be "The 
Tree of Idleness" and "The Swallows Gather."

Best of evenings--


            *THE TREE OF IDLENESS [from Collected Poems: 1931-1974
            (1985), Faber and Faber]*

            I shall die one day I suppose
            In this old Turkish house I inhabit:
            A ragged banana-leaf outside and here
            On the sill in a jam-jar a rock-rose.

            Perhaps a single pining mandolin
            Throbs where cicadas have quarried
            To the heart of all misgiving and there
            Scratches on silence like a pet locked in.

            Will I be more or less dead
            Than the village in memory's dispersing
            Springs, or in some cloud of witness see,
            Looking back, the selfsame road ahead?

            By the moist clay of a woman's wanting,
            After the heart has stopped its fearful
            Gnawing, will I descry between
            This life and that another sort of haunting?

            No: the card-players in tabs of shade
            Will play on: the aerial springs
            Hiss: in bed lying quiet under kisses
            Without signature, with all my debts unpaid

            I shall recall nights of squinting rain,
            Like pig-iron on the hills: bruised
            Landscapes of drumming cloud and everywhere
            The lack of someone spreading like a stain.

            Or where brown fingers in the darkness move,
            Before the early shepherds have awoken,
            Tap out on sleeping lips with these same
            Worn typewriter keys a poem imploring

            Silence of lips and minds which have not spoken.


            Author's Note

            The title of this poem is taken from the name of the tree
            which stands outside Bellapaix Abbey in Cyprus, and which
            confers the gift of pure idleness on all who sit under it.

Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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