Sunday Poetry: In View of the Fact, by A. R. Ammons

In View of the Fact

The people of my time are passing away: my
wife is baking for a funeral, a 60-year-old who

died suddenly, when the phone rings, and it’s
Ruth we care so much about in intensive care:

it was once weddings that came so thick and
fast, and then, first babies, such a hullabaloo:

now, it’s this that and the other and somebody
else gone or on the brink: well, we never

thought we would live forever (although we did)
and now it looks like we won’t: some of us

are losing a leg to diabetes, some don’t know
what they went downstairs for, some know that

a hired watchful person is around, some like
to touch the cane tip into something steady,

so nice: we have already lost so many,
brushed the loss of ourselves ourselves: our

address books for so long a slow scramble now
are palimpsests, scribbles and scratches: our

index cards for Christmases, birthdays,
Halloweens drop clean away into sympathies:

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we’ll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .

— by A. R. Ammons
__________________

Death in poetry most often drives poets to their full rhetorical force – “rage, rage against the against the dying of the light,” etc., etc.. A.R. Ammons, in this poem, brings a more natural approach, more reflective of people like me who glance at the list of obituaries most days and increasingly see the name of a former colleague, or the spouse of an acquaintance, or some other peripheral character in our lives.

This poem doesn’t include a period – it rambles on in small, easy-to-digest two-line stanzas, and ends in an elipse that signals the continuation of the narrator in life. Most of the stanza carry right on into the next – there are few clean breaks here. The poem just keeps on going in the presence of death, just as life does, for those of us who continue on.

Indeed, the poem is almost mundane in its handling of death – “passing away” in the gently euphemistic language of the narrator – it is a cause for baking and amending address books, not for a tremendous outpouring of grief. Widows travel a lot (as my own mother did, in her time of widowhood).

But, toward the end, the spirit rises a bit, and builds toward a sweet final seven stanzas -

at the same time we are getting used to so
many leaving, we are hanging on with a grip

to the ones left: we are not giving up on the
congestive heart failure or brain tumors, on

the nice old men left in empty houses or on
the widows who decide to travel a lot: we

think the sun may shine someday when we’ll
drink wine together and think of what used to

be: until we die we will remember every
single thing, recall every word, love every

loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to
others to love, love that can grow brighter

and deeper till the very end, gaining strength
and getting more precious all the way. . . .

It occurs to me that these seven stanzas could stand alone as a poem with a few word changes, and the fact that I am horribly wrong is key to understanding why this is such a fine poem, and why A. R. Ammons is such a fine poet. Those seven stanzas without their build-up would be a sappy greeting card verse. Only after grounding us in the reality of life when friends are departing, and showing that the narrator is well aware that life carries on can Ammons justify the broader statements at the end. He earns these lines with credibility established in the early part of the poem.

One Response to “Sunday Poetry: In View of the Fact, by A. R. Ammons”

  1. [...] http://gonemild.com/2012/11/11/sunday-poetry-in-view-of-the-fact-by-a-r-ammons/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… This entry was posted in Uncategorized by pdiamond7. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

Leave a Reply