Allegory

By James Longenbach James Longenbach
1


In the Forest of    Wearisome Sadness,
Where one day I found myself wandering alone,
I met my heart, who called to me, asking me where I was going.

The path was long and straight, row after row of conifers receding
To a horizon that because of   the geometry
Seemed farther than it really was,
Like the door at the top of a staircase in Versailles.

But as if   the forest’s maker had been offended by elegance,
A pile of rocks disrupted the rows: the forest once
Had been a field. I remember that field.

I was carried there by my father, beside him
My grandfather, who planted the trees.
Until they were tall enough to survive,
He mowed the field, piling up rocks, taking down brush with a scythe.

How, since I’ve known the forest almost since birth, could I have been lost?
Why, since the forest is beautiful, is it not a place of delight?

Repeatedly I asked these questions of my heart,
But like a good physician, he elected
To keep silent, leaving me to answer for myself.




2

Late at night, when I’m lying in bed and cannot sleep,
My heart reads to me from the Romance of   Pleasant Thought.
Always I’ve heard the story before, and typically,
Since the stories are true, I am their hero.

I’m riding my tricycle on the sidewalk near the house where I was born.
Because I am unsupervised, I indulge in what seems at the moment
A daring wish: I ride the tricycle beneath a sprinkler.

Immediately I am overcome with remorse.
The evidence of my trespass is everywhere to be seen,
And for the first time in my life I contemplate a lie.

Would my shirt dry faster if I stood in the sun, where it’s hot,
Or in the shade, where cool breezes rustle the leaves?

In the version of this story that appears now
In the Romance of Pleasant Thought,
I admire not so much my ingenuity
As the evidence of my early devotion to empiricism,
The way I manage terror by examining how things work.





3

It’s done, there’s nothing more to say.
My heart is gone from me.
Because he has fallen in love
He has abandoned me.

It’s pointless making myself uncomfortable over this
By being mournful or sad.
It’s done, there’s nothing more to say.
My heart is gone from me.

He does nothing but mock me.
When I tell him pitifully
That I cannot live on my own,
He does not listen.
It’s done, there’s nothing more to say.

After Charles d’Orleans



4

Imagine you’ve been in love forever, since before you were born.
You walk the field. At every third step
You scoop out a handful of wheat
From the seed bag, scattering it broadcast.
As the sun comes up, you’re walking in a golden cloud.

Inside the cloud, time no longer exists.
Your back’s not bent, your body is a boy’s.

Outside, since it’s time for wheat, the summer rains are finished.
Otherwise it’s oats. Every third year it’s clover.
You’re tired of walking, of  sowing, tired of   being in love.

The advantage to people like you,
Though there are many disadvantages, is this:
When the earth no longer needs what you can grow

You plant hundreds, then thousands
Of seedlings, conifers, trees that bear no edible fruit.
You arrange them in rows, you tend them,
You’re proud of them.
You make the field disappear.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013).

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2013
 James  Longenbach

Biography

A poet as well as an influential literary critic and a professor of English at the University of Rochester, James Longenbach writes primarily on modernist and contemporary poetry. He is the author of the critical works Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism (1988), Wallace Stevens: The Plain Sense of Things (1991), Modern Poetry After Modernism (1997), The Resistance to Poetry (2004), The Art of the Poetic Line (2008), and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse, Series/Sequence

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