Gravelly Run

By A. R. Ammons 1926–2001
I don’t know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming and going is,
losing the self to the victory
   of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:

for it is not so much to know the self   
as to know it as it is known
   by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:

the swamp’s slow water comes   
down Gravelly Run fanning the long   
   stone-held algal
hair and narrowing roils between   
the shoulders of the highway bridge:

holly grows on the banks in the woods there,   
and the cedars’ gothic-clustered
   spires could make
green religion in winter bones:

so I look and reflect, but the air’s glass   
jail seals each thing in its entity:

no use to make any philosophies here:
   I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter   
yellow in the pines: the sunlight has never   
heard of trees: surrendered self among
   unwelcoming forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.

A. R. Ammons, “Gravelly Run” 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: Poetry (November 1960).

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This poem originally appeared in the November 1960 issue of Poetry magazine

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November 1960
 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 Arts & Sciences, Nature, Travels & Journeys, Activities, Religion, Trees & Flowers, Philosophy

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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