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The Copper Beech

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It is half past ten in Stonington.
The trees droop apprehensive of the heat
And the sky has turned that pale suspicious colour
That means that it cannot support more light.
Here on the terrace I and a companion
Each pretends to read. The papers say
That it is 90 in New York today.

Across the street work is going forward
On the abominable house that once I fancied,
Half, might be mine, and which was in fact the home
Of the anonymous couple I used to hear
At night arguing in their unhappy bedroom.
Now they are throwing out another wing
And the site of overlooked love is changed beyond recognition.

What will the day, what will the summer bring?
Psychic storms or calm productive doldrums?
Our neighbours are no saner than ourselves.
Perhaps it is time to give the Stones a ring
Or to complain of the view from the gallery tower
Falling like a shadow across the calm veranda
Rich with malice and the threat of accidental meeting.

This is not a house but a collection
(The largest in private hands?) of sacred objects,
A spiritual boutique where anyone,
Even the wrecker who had come to spoil,
May find himself spending more than he expected
On something he cannot quite identify.
Here the little horrors become the household gods.

For the work of love requires a rule of thumb,
Not no laws in particular but its own
Whose pseudonym, at least here and now, is pleasure:
The morning wasted in work and misquotation,
A light but leisurely lunch, then reading
Walking or just watching the sun all afternoon
Till, hungry, we draw to evening and ombre.

Who are we to thank for all of this?
The greatest favours are conferred in absence
Sometimes, as a syllable gives comfort
Dependent on the time and place and person.
When pleasure and reality occur
Is there room for extra contemplation
Or the lyrical promenade? It is enough

To know (and this is surely recognition)
That the world is spherical and perfect.
Now I wish to introduce the copper beech
We saw on our walk, English and native here as I am,
Whose shade is not the green of contemplation
But the imagination’s rich metallic colour
Wherein, under libido, we live.

Daryl Hine, “The Copper Beech” from Minutes (New York: Atheneum Publishers, 1968). Copyright © 1968 by Daryl Hine. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Minutes: Poems (1968)
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The Copper Beech

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