The Wheel Revolves

By Kenneth Rexroth 1905–1982 Kenneth Rexroth
You were a girl of satin and gauze
Now you are my mountain and waterfall companion.   
Long ago I read those lines of Po Chu I   
Written in his middle age.
Young as I was they touched me.
I never thought in my own middle age   
I would have a beautiful young dancer
To wander with me by falling crystal waters,   
Among mountains of snow and granite,   
Least of all that unlike Po’s girl
She would be my very daughter.

The earth turns towards the sun.   
Summer comes to the mountains.   
Blue grouse drum in the red fir woods   
All the bright long days.
You put blue jay and flicker feathers   
In your hair.
Two and two violet green swallows   
Play over the lake.
The blue birds have come back
To nest on the little island.
The swallows sip water on the wing   
And play at love and dodge and swoop
Just like the swallows that swirl   
Under and over the Ponte Vecchio.   
Light rain crosses the lake
Hissing faintly. After the rain
There are giant puffballs with tortoise shell backs   
At the edge of the meadow.
Snows of a thousand winters
Melt in the sun of one summer.   
Wild cyclamen bloom by the stream.   
Trout veer in the transparent current.
In the evening marmots bark in the rocks.
The Scorpion curls over the glimmering ice field.
A white crowned night sparrow sings as the moon sets.   
Thunder growls far off.
Our campfire is a single light
Amongst a hundred peaks and waterfalls.
The manifold voices of falling water
Talk all night.
Wrapped in your down bag   
Starlight on your cheeks and eyelids
Your breath comes and goes
In a tiny cloud in the frosty night.
Ten thousand birds sing in the sunrise.
Ten thousand years revolve without change.
All this will never be again.

Kenneth Rexroth, “The Wheel Revolves” from The Collected Shorter Poems. Copyright © 1966 by Kenneth Rexroth. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: The Collected Shorter Poems (1966)

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Poet Kenneth Rexroth 1905–1982

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Summer, Poetry & Poets, Growing Old, Nature, Reading & Books, Animals, Parenthood, Living, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Kenneth  Rexroth

Biography

Kenneth Rexroth was born in South Bend, Indiana and frequently moved around the Midwest during his childhood. He led a tumultuous life that included being orphaned at 14, constant traveling both in the US and abroad, intense political activism, and four marriages. Largely self-educated, he is one of the most well-read poets of the twentieth century. His poems, which influenced Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Summer, Poetry & Poets, Growing Old, Nature, Reading & Books, Animals, Parenthood, Living, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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