Place a man in the center, and he becomes
The man who has prepared for a lifetime
To answer, and now is ready.
There are trees at the edge of the clearing,
More often a sea. He talks on and on.
And his voice is carried up by the thermals
At the sea’s edge, or down among the dark
Anfractuous trees, and the textile moss.
The lesson is staggering, and the examples
Come to hand like sheaves in a great harvest.
But, in fact, there are no trees, there is no sea,
And the center is some eccentric region
Of a bed or a room, and the question
Is the half-demented glance of a child,
Or a blurred silence on the telephone,
For which the man who has prepared a lifetime
But the harvest is a great harvest.
After a long time, the voice of the man
Stops. It was good to talk on and on.
He rises. And the sea or forest becomes
A level way reaching to night and the thunder.
But, in fact, there is no night. There is
– Allen Grossman
I post this poem today in honor of its author, who was a great poet and an inspiring, gifted and compassionate teacher, who died this morning. He was my professor when I was an undergraduate at Brandeis University and then again at Johns Hopkins, the year I did a Masters there in The Writing Seminars. I read and for a time seriously wrote poems because of Allen Grossman. I hear poems and encounter the world through his lessons and his voice still. More than 20 years later, I am still learning from him.