Robert Farnsworth


From an American early autumn evening

flung back into tomorrow’s afternoon,

I sat a while in the car park, smoking

over a map, then for practice drove west

to a neglected town, where transatlantic

flying boats set down seventy years ago,

and on the silent pier beside their museum,

imagined back the long white scuds of their

landings.  No one else otherwise like me

would have come here. So now that no one

could take my peculiar solitude from me,

I set out, prompted by the intuition that my

heart would feel welcome on the grounds

of some durable verse I first read forty

years ago. Intimation, almost invitation—

I felt bound to honor, no, not answer, honor.

Even knowing the big house was a ruin. 

Under steep September sky: sea-gray,

lavender, blue, and quartz, I shouldered

a bag, and set off into the Seven Woods

toward the lough, not expecting swans—

all flown, long flown, as that weary spell

of a poem supposed they would  be.

But on those woodland paths I made a loop

of several miles, until I’d walked myself

quite out of the life I’d yesterday begun

to shed in the airport lounge. The pleasure

was guilty, but pleasure it was, piercing

as music I wished never to end, a real

depaysement, an achieved disappearance,

a belonging more profound for its complete

fictitiousness, and I lay down in these

beneath a lime tree in Lady Gregory’s garden,

to sleep a just sleep, as in the cherished

crypt of a page.  Invisible, anonymous—

who could I fail now?  My sleep was not

my own; who was going to wake me?

Nobody I knew knew where I was, knew

that I was this contented tramp dozing

in September shade in a mildly famous garden. 

His hour of sleep would change me,

just enough to make the next weeks happen

not exactly to me, but exactly. I woke

under the gaze of six red deer that then

stepped off across the rain-silvered meadow.