Meander

Yes, a river is a tree, a tree a river, built by source
       and branchings,
like the river in Byzantium called Maeander, with its
       tributaries and blind offshoots.
Like that elm, closer to home, that earlier every year
       loses leaves,
then towers in isolation, each divided limb finding shape
       inside the air.
And this rain slip-slipping down the window, capillary,
       fragmentary, bled,
and bleeding out, a kind of river delta, spreading like
       the rootlike veining
of the heart or the ganglia of nerve cells off the spine,
       the spine itself
a slight meander, rooted to the ground, branching to a cloud.
My heart, my spine, my cloud, the x-rays coldly spiritual,
       the invisible made real.
Of the six shapes in nature, the oval, the circle, and
       the hexagon all close,
suggesting symmetry, endings as beginnings, the egg, the moon,
       the perfect snow,
geometry and physics of completion, symbols of certainty,
       the formal beauty of arrival.
That loving shape of the limb on the dying elm, how far
       from where it started,
still growing, even now, toward ending, the way a river
       and its runoff end.

Presented by

Stanley Plumly's recent books include Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000 and a volume of essays, Argument and Song: Sources and Silences in Poetry (2003).

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