ALDERS by Amy Clampitt – Poetry Friday


Trying to find something from the past…this poem brings truth and strength to the task.  “Nothing’s / the way it was.”  “There are no promises,/…terse, tough, bleak, true…”  Should we even try to go there?  What will we find if we do?  Are you ready to take the journey?


The roadway’s sallow, puddled furrow
uncurls like a root among the alders,
then flops up where the granite surfaces,
a bare outcrop.  Alders are hard to stop–
impossible, even, unless you’re really serious.

Someone who wasn’t, from the look
of it, has done a little hacking at them
along the edges; but to deal with the alder–
the way it’s dealt with down by the inlet–
means slash and burn, year by year by year.

It’s not only the alders.  Nothing’s
the way it was.  The jack pine’s closing in–
a herd of brassy, burgeoning antlers
now bares the opening down to the shore.
Cut off, branch-stung, I find myself in tears

for all sorts of likely and unlikely reasons.
We try another way, between green-creamy
headlamps of mountain ash, wet peat moss
underfoot, dim elegiac voices of white-
throated sparrows above a dwindling trace

we halfway recognize, to a high ledge
where we once picnicked–a tight, finical
medaillion that turns out to be a bench mark
setting its seal on the would-be primeval,
while everywhere the alders take the tundra back,

take back the fields and the four cellar holes
left by the settlers who made it their business,
come spring, to clear away the winter’s frost-
heaved boulders, and to keep down the alders.
I’d once supposed these acres had no past–

that entity, no virgin, bled with the season,
burgeoned, withered, bloomed and bled again,
uninterfered with, like the pattern of a dance,
a promise kept.  There are no promises,
only the alders–terse, tough, bleak, true inhabitants.
                                                  —Amy Clampitt

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2 Responses to ALDERS by Amy Clampitt – Poetry Friday

  1. Toby Speed says:

    A sad poem, and a wonderful mouthful to read aloud. Thanks for sharing it, Judy.

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