The Sound Thereof

Jefferson Holdridge

(These) exquisite new poems... (are) filled with wonder and wisdom... (and) the belief that we, despite our folly, belong to “a whole that is whole no matter how it is sliced.” - Piotr Florezyk.

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Jefferson Holdridge was raised in Connecticut and has travelled widely throughout Italy and Ireland, where he took his PhD at University College, Dublin. Among his publications are two books of poetry, Eruptions (2013) and Devil's Den and Other Poems (2015), and two critical works (one on Yeats and one on Paul Muldoon) and numerous articles on Irish poets. He is Director of Wake Forest University Press and Professor of English at WFU in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.


for Sofia
Winston-Salem, NC, 2014

The season has arrived for them to migrate,
So they gather in flocks, circle the sky,
Seem more active as evening grows late,
And yes, join the wild geese as they cry.

But Wednesday, you and your mother found
Swallows dead or injured on the street.
Those still living you laid on the ground
Behind a hedge, hoping in fading heat

They might survive, while a bird-like girl
From Romania brought a very sick one home
To feed it sugar-water. You saw its claws curl
Around her fingers. You asked me for this poem.

The catch in your throat was a hard act to follow:
The sadness in your voice, your mother's concern
Was how the reflecting glass deluded each swallow,
That sky-lovers would never manage to learn

Not to head for the heights, the deepest blue,
The blinding sun, on migrations south or north.
And as the swallows dare so someday must you
Swallow your fear and prepare to come forth.

At the Turn of the Stream

The tree is balanced on roots
Exposed by years of erosion
As symmetrical as its limbs
As high as the oak tree shoots.
A vivisection of conscience
Stricken. For falling once,
As Horace tells the story,
There is no rejuvenation.

And Milton would avow
Adam named the beasts
Only to learn the cost
Of time and space, of how
They became predatory -
In lines from Paradise Lost
"Beast now with Beast gan war...
All that I eat, drink or shall beget,
Is propagated curse."

Like philosophers of old
The tree is carefully set
On what stands before.
While waters undermine
And buried grounds disperse.
The roots for now will hold
The slowly wrought design.

Of the many walks through
These woods, the last time
I passed this tree, again I
Saw how like conscience
It seemed in its climb
Among the visible nests
Toward the receding blue,

How its source isn't found
In nature, that its being rests
On reaching toward the sky.
And yet like mind to sense,
It stands tenuously bound
To the disappearing ground.

© 2017 Jefferson Holdridge

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