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Energy: A Villanelle

From Facing Nature (1985)

The logs give back, in burning, solar fire
green leaves imbibed and processed one by one;
nothing is lost but, still, the cost grows higher.

The ocean’s tons of tide, to turn, require
no more than time and moon; it’s cosmic fun.
The logs give back, in burning, solar fire.

All microorganisms must expire
and quite a few become petroleum;
nothing is lost but, still, the cost grows higher.

The oil rigs in Bahrain imply a buyer
who counts no cost, when all is said and done.
The logs give back, in burning, solar fire.

but Good Gulf gives it faster; every tire
is by the fiery heavens lightly spun.
Nothing is lost but, still, the cost grows higher.

So guzzle gas, the leaden night draws nigher
when cinders mark where stood the blazing sun.
The logs give back, in burning, solar fire;
nothing is lost but, still, the cost grows higher.

John Updike



Watched PBS’s very long biomentary about Andy Warhol last night. It’s good—and did I mention really long? It emphasized Warhol’s belief that you work tirelessly. The art you make from it will be accepted or not, that’s not your call to make: the artist should make, regardless. (It also connected that claim somewhat to the notion that part of Warhol’s creation was the scene at the Factory, which was instrumental in a lot of things, including his shooting and in his later success because of its significant connections to high [in spite of its connections to low] society.)

Anyway, reading this this morning, I think there’s something to Updike’s production in that sense. His poetry seems light, but formally, is pretty good, and is politically topical, startlingly so.

the entire collection is really quite good. this poem comes from the end, from the section entitled light verse.

updike is a startlingly good formal poet… in a way that makes me utterly jealous (despite not being a formal poet myself). he carries off form with such ease.

his poetry, even his light verse, is always very perceptive… it makes you think, how many insights can one man have.

yet, maybe because he is so formally polished and so prolific and his prose has taken him places, he’s never really considered to be a poet… by that i mean, he’s never accorded the iconic stature of ashbery, graham, bukowski (whatever one may think of his scatalogical, drunken poems), eliot, or berryman, etc. and it could be because there isn’t much of the tortured sensibility to it. even his non-light verse is often topical.


Dog’s Death

She must have been kicked unseen or brushed by a car.
Too young to know much, she was beginning to learn
To use the newspapers spread on the kitchen floor
And to win, wetting there, the words, “Good dog!

Good dog!”

We thought her shy malaise was a shot reaction.
The autopsy disclosed a rupture in her liver.
As we teased her with play, blood was filling her skin
And her heart was learning to lie down forever.

Monday morning, as the children were noisily fed
And sent to school, she crawled beneath the youngest’s bed.
We found her twisted and limp but still alive.
In the car to the vet’s, on my lap, she tried

To bite my hand and died. I stroked her warm fur
And my wife called in a voice imperious with tears.
Though surrounded by love that would have upheld her,
Nevertheless she sank and, stiffening, disappeared.

Back home, we found that in the night her frame,
Drawing near to dissolution, had endured the shame
Of diarrhoea and had dragged across the floor
To a newspaper carelessly left there. Good dog.

oh, that’s not from facing nature, that’s from 1958 the carpentered hen, i believe

facing nature has this poem on dogs

Another Dog’s Death

For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the field.
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up earth.
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.

2: Excuse me a minute. I’m a little teary after that.