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Why do I love the sound of children's voices in unknown games
So much on a summer's night,
Lightning bugs lifting heavily out of the dry grass
Like alien spacecraft looking for higher ground,
Darkness beginning to sift like coffee grains
over the neighborhood?
Whunk of a ball being kicked,
Surf-suck and surf-spill from traffic along the by-pass,
Venus just lit in the third heaven,
Time-tick between "Okay, let's go," and "This earth is not my home."
Why do I care about this? Whatever happens will happen
With or without us,
with or without these verbal amulets.
In the first ply, in the heaven of the moon, a little light,
Half-light, over Charlottesville.
Trees reshape themselves, the swallows disappear, lawn sprinklers do the wave.
Nevertheless, it's still summer: cicadas pump their boxes,
Jack Russell terriers, as they say, start barking their heads off,
And someone, somewhere, is putting his first foot, then the second,
Down on the other side, no hand to help him,
no tongue to wedge its weal.
We talked about it in class and this is what we came up with:
1. It's about a dude talking about the loveliness of summer nights, the mood evoked from the sights and sounds of a summer evening.
But then the poem gets weird: Time-tick between "Okay, let's go," and "This earth is not my home." I think it's meant to represent the blink of an eye that life is... when you're young, it's like, yeah, let's go, life is great, sieze life. Then, suddenly, you're old, and as one gets old they realize... I guess... this earth is not my home.... This is kind of an interesting reading in light of the reference to "aliens" further up.. sort of priming the reader for the idea that the poet is just a visitor here on earth.. he is not permanent. This is not his true home. He is just a visitor, an alien to this planet. For an example of this idea in poetry (well, in a song) click here. I sort of felt that the end of the poem is tied to this idea of the poem being at a deeper level about transience of life: "And someone, somewhere, is putting his first foot, then the second,
Down on the other side,". One student suggested it's about a person first learning how to walk, but the professor didn't think it matched the last line "no hand to help him, no tongue to wedge its weal." Weal apparently means wellbeing. It's the "down on the other side" that made me feel like it tied to the line about transience mentioned above. The other side meaning "across the threshold".
This has probably been the most puzzling poem in the class so far. Any insights anyone has on any of this would be awesome. Particularly the last three lines.
Other mysteries: what is the third heaven?
Professor said "verbal amulets" is a poetic way of saying "poems"
So then we read: "Why do I care about this?" Why does any of this matter? "Whatever happens will happen with or without us." With or without these poetic words about the sweetness of summer nights.
"no hand to help him" could be implying that as one steps over to the other side, as they die, you die alone, no one can go with you when you die--so there is "no hand to help him" ... but still, what does "no tongue wedge its weal" mean?
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