Essential Poem

For John Hollander

Although it’s likely you’re on your own
at this moment in this city of three million
reading the poems of Traherne,
and there was no one till you lit your lamp,
the kingdom of childhood keeps being founded
in his voice and his seeing,
which are a sort of birth. A birth goes on
in the dark of a poor family, or a mother alone.
Then comes the small bright circle of the faces:
lover pores over sleeping loved one, parent over child
in their enclosure we name home,
a hut in the plain so bare there’s not a tongue
of grass to make the wind hiss. Unknown
to the world a world exists:
trees and streams, birds all the colors of the flowers.
So Traherne pours over you
his wild remembrance of the world to come. And would
even in the silence of his book
if it were lost and lay unopened
two hundred years. Even if he had died
before he sang the Eden in his look.