Poem-a-Day Collection (4)

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Poem-a-Day Collection
by Knopf
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COPYRIGHT
Poem-a-Day Collection by Knopf. Compilation copyright 2009 by Knopf.
All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.


Like Giving to a Blind Man Eyes

by Ruth Padel

He's standing in Elysium. Palm feathers, a green

dream of fountain against blue sky. Banana fronds,
slack rubber rivulets, a canopy of waterproof tearstain
over his head. Pods and racemes of tamarind.
Follicle, pinnacle; whorl, bole and thorn.

'I expected a good deal. I had read Humboldt
and was afraid of disappointment.'
What if he'd stayed at home? 'How utterly vain
such fear is, none can tell but those who have seen
what I have today.' A small rock off Africa –

alone with his enchantment. So much and so unknown.
Like taking a newborn baby in your arms. 'Not only the grace
of forms and rich new colours: it's the numberless –
& confusing – associations rushing on the mind!'
He walks through hot damp air

and tastes it like the breath of earth, like blood.
He is possessed by chlorophyll. By the calls of unknown birds.
He wades into sea and scares an octopus. It puffs black hair
at him, turns red – as hyacinth – and darts for cover.
He sees it watching him. He's discovered

something wonderful! He tests it against coloured card
and the sailors laugh. They know that girly blush!
He feels a fool – but look, he's touched tropical Volcanic rock
for the first time. And Coral on its native stone.
'Often at Edinburgh have I gazed at little pools

of water left by tide. From tiny Corals of our shores
I pictured larger ones. Little did I know how exquisite,
still less expect my hope of seeing them to come true.
Never, in my wildest castles of the air, did I imagine this.'
Lava must once have streamed on the sea-floor here,

baking shells to white hard rock. Then a subterranean force
pushed everything up to make an island.
Vegetation he's never seen, and every step a new surprise.
'New insects, fluttering about still newer flowers. It has been
for me a glorious day, like giving to a blind man eyes.'

--

Buy Ruth Padel Darwin: A Life In Poems from Amazon here.

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Excerpt from DARWIN: A LIFE IN POEMS. Copyright © 2009 by Ruth Padel. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.




A Message from DailyLit
Question of the Week: Describe (in 50 words or fewer) a time in your life when you experienced independence. Click here to share.
Message from DailyLit
Question of the Week: Describe (in 50 words or fewer) a time in your life when you experienced independence. Click here to share.
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