Corsons Inlet

By A. R. Ammons 1926–2001
I went for a walk over the dunes again this morning
to the sea,
then turned right along
   the surf
                         rounded a naked headland
                         and returned

   along the inlet shore:

it was muggy sunny, the wind from the sea steady and high,   
crisp in the running sand,
       some breakthroughs of sun
   but after a bit

continuous overcast:

the walk liberating, I was released from forms,   
from the perpendiculars,
      straight lines, blocks, boxes, binds
of thought
into the hues, shadings, rises, flowing bends and blends   
               of sight:

                         I allow myself eddies of meaning:   
yield to a direction of significance
running
like a stream through the geography of my work:   
   you can find
in my sayings
                         swerves of action
                         like the inlet’s cutting edge:
               there are dunes of motion,
organizations of grass, white sandy paths of remembrance   
in the overall wandering of mirroring mind:
but Overall is beyond me: is the sum of these events
I cannot draw, the ledger I cannot keep, the accounting
beyond the account:

in nature there are few sharp lines: there are areas of   
primrose
       more or less dispersed;
disorderly orders of bayberry; between the rows
of dunes,
irregular swamps of reeds,
though not reeds alone, but grass, bayberry, yarrow, all ...
predominantly reeds:

I have reached no conclusions, have erected no boundaries,   
shutting out and shutting in, separating inside
          from outside: I have
          drawn no lines:
          as

manifold events of sand
change the dune’s shape that will not be the same shape   
tomorrow,

so I am willing to go along, to accept   
the becoming
thought, to stake off no beginnings or ends, establish   
         no walls:

by transitions the land falls from grassy dunes to creek   
to undercreek: but there are no lines, though
       change in that transition is clear
       as any sharpness: but “sharpness” spread out,   
allowed to occur over a wider range
than mental lines can keep:

the moon was full last night: today, low tide was low:   
black shoals of mussels exposed to the risk
of air
and, earlier, of sun,
waved in and out with the waterline, waterline inexact,   
caught always in the event of change:   
       a young mottled gull stood free on the shoals
       and ate
to vomiting: another gull, squawking possession, cracked a crab,   
picked out the entrails, swallowed the soft-shelled legs, a ruddy
turnstone running in to snatch leftover bits:

risk is full: every living thing in
siege: the demand is life, to keep life: the small
white blacklegged egret, how beautiful, quietly stalks and spears
               the shallows, darts to shore
                            to stab—what? I couldn’t
       see against the black mudflats—a frightened
       fiddler crab?

               the news to my left over the dunes and
reeds and bayberry clumps was
               fall: thousands of tree swallows
               gathering for flight:
               an order held
               in constant change: a congregation
rich with entropy: nevertheless, separable, noticeable
          as one event,
                      not chaos: preparations for
flight from winter,
cheet, cheet, cheet, cheet, wings rifling the green clumps,
beaks
at the bayberries
    a perception full of wind, flight, curve,
    sound:
    the possibility of rule as the sum of rulelessness:
the “field” of action
with moving, incalculable center:

in the smaller view, order tight with shape:
blue tiny flowers on a leafless weed: carapace of crab:
snail shell:
            pulsations of order
            in the bellies of minnows: orders swallowed,   
broken down, transferred through membranes
to strengthen larger orders: but in the large view, no
lines or changeless shapes: the working in and out, together   
            and against, of millions of events: this,
                         so that I make
                         no form of
                         formlessness:

orders as summaries, as outcomes of actions override   
or in some way result, not predictably (seeing me gain   
the top of a dune,
the swallows
could take flight—some other fields of bayberry   
            could enter fall
            berryless) and there is serenity:

            no arranged terror: no forcing of image, plan,
or thought:
no propaganda, no humbling of reality to precept:

terror pervades but is not arranged, all possibilities   
of escape open: no route shut, except in   
   the sudden loss of all routes:

            I see narrow orders, limited tightness, but will   
not run to that easy victory:
            still around the looser, wider forces work:
            I will try
       to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening   
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,   
that I have perceived nothing completely,
that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.

A. R. Ammons, “Corsons Inlet” from The Selected Poems, Expanded Edition. Copyright © 1988 by A. R. Ammons. Reprinted with the permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. This selection may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1986)

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Poet A. R. Ammons 1926–2001

Subjects Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Weather, Animals, Travels & Journeys, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 A. R. Ammons

Biography

A. R. Ammons was born in rural North Carolina, and his experiences growing up on a cotton and tobacco farm during the Great Depression inspired a great deal of the poet's work. Ammons wrote his first poems while serving aboard a Navy destroyer during World War II. After the war, he completed his education, then held a variety of jobs before beginning his teaching career at Cornell University in 1964. Ammons once told the . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Weather, Animals, Travels & Journeys, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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