As I read The Journey, I am rediscovering an old truth: good poems are those that cannot be paraphrased satisfactorily. Paraphrasing them is like reporting on the memory of one’s last conversation with someone dear.
“The Wild Spray” is about the poet’s marriage: the indistinct happiness of the early days clarifying into present reality, or, as the poem puts it, “a random guess becoming a definition.” Those early days were an ironstone jug filled with long-stemmed flowers whose names the poet learned only much later: true rose, mountain rose, asparagus fern, rosemary, forsythia. The summer air had a consistency of milk. The lights on the mountain were sharp like crocuses seen through the snowfall of darkness, whereas the light on the street, the streetlamp in the rain, was a planet of tears near the whitebeam trees.
Reading “The Wild Spray”
From Paris you brought back your first gift
for me, a stainless steel wine holder, arched
back in a single curve, seen from the side,
and, from the top, a shiny sharp-edged plane.
It was the most definite thing in my kitchen
where mismatched mugs squatted in the sink,
the gas cooker was bronzed with spits of sauce,
and ripe bananas hung over the trash.
I stashed it in some cupboard and forgot
those early days of careful give-and-take.
Now, taking out the holder from my mind,
and flashing it, this way, that, in the sun,
I see it keeps its clear and severe lines,
the boundaries of being, and within
the first material it was made of,
the graceful arch still of that of a bridge,
but, more, the months have worn its cutlass shine
to a rich homely glow, and here it sits,
its empty mouth also a steady hand,
to hold the bottle of Bordeaux we choose.