poem of the day: When You Look Up by Jan Zwicky

When You Look Up

Jan Zwicky (link)

When you look up, or out,
or in, your seeing is
a substance: stuff: a density
of some kind, like a pitch
that’s just outside the range
of hearing: numb
nudge of the real.
I saw air
once, in its nothingness
so clear it was a voice
almost, a kind of joy. I thought
of water – breath as drinking –
and the way it shows us
light. Or maybe it was light
I thought of – as though
water were the solid form
of wind, and air
a language with a single word
transparent to the world.
Your glance is this,
meltwater, mountain light.
The plunge and thunder of the pool.
The ripple at its farthest edge.

From Forge, by Jan Zwicky
© Jan Zwicky, 2011


4 thoughts on “poem of the day: When You Look Up by Jan Zwicky

  1. What a glorious poem! And a perfect illustration of Jan Zwicky’s lecture. I think a good poem shares a certain inevitability with a mathematical proof without limiting the conclusion.

    When you ask, “How else could it have been written,” and can’t think of any better way, then that’s the watermark. Like Yeats’ “A Coat,” a perfect poem:

    I made myself a coat
    Covered with embroideries
    Out of old mythologies
    From heel to throat;
    But the fools caught it,
    Wore it in the world’s eyes
    As though they’d wrought it.
    Song, let them take it,
    For there’s more enterprise
    In walking naked.

    • yeltnuh says:

      I admired Jan very much: as a former colleague, as an incisive thinker, and as a poet who mixes magic with words.

      I haven’t looked at that poem by Yeats for a long time; you’re right.

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