Mechanism

By A. R. Ammons 1926–2001
Honor a going thing, goldfinch, corporation, tree,
          morality: any working order,
       animate or inanimate: it
 
has managed directed balance,
          the incoming and outgoing energies are working right,
       some energy left to the mechanism,
 
some ash, enough energy held
          to maintain the order in repair,
       assure further consumption of entropy,
 
expending energy to strengthen order:
          honor the persisting reactor,
       the container of change, the moderator: the yellow
 
bird flashes black wing-bars
          in the new-leaving wild cherry bushes by the bay,
       startles the hawk with beauty,
 
flitting to a branch where
          flash vanishes into stillness,
       hawk addled by the sudden loss of sight:
 
honor the chemistries, platelets, hemoglobin kinetics,
          the light-sensitive iris, the enzymic intricacies
       of control,
 
the gastric transformations, seed
          dissolved to acrid liquors, synthesized into
       chirp, vitreous humor, knowledge,
 
blood compulsion, instinct: honor the
          unique genes,
       molecules that reproduce themselves, divide into
 
sets, the nucleic grain transmitted
          in slow change through ages of rising and falling form,
       some cells set aside for the special work, mind
 
or perception rising into orders of courtship,
          territorial rights, mind rising
       from the physical chemistries
 
to guarantee that genes will be exchanged, male
          and female met, the satisfactions cloaking a deeper
       racial satisfaction:
 
heat kept by a feathered skin:
          the living alembic, body heat maintained (bunsen
       burner under the flask)
 
so the chemistries can proceed, reaction rates
          interdependent, self-adjusting, with optimum
       efficiency—the vessel firm, the flame
 
staying: isolated, contained reactions! the precise and
          necessary worked out of random, reproducible,
       the handiwork redeemed from chance, while the
 
goldfinch, unconscious of the billion operations
          that stay its form, flashes, chirping (not a
       great songster) in the bay cherry bushes wild of leaf. 

A. R. Ammons, “Mechanism” from Collected Poems: 1951-1971. Copyright © 1960 by A. R. Ammons. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: Collected Poems: 1951-1971 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1972)

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Poet A. R. Ammons 1926–2001

Subjects Nature, Animals, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Tercet

 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Animals, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Tercet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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