Words for a Poem

…for Knute

words are
ambassadors between
sensations and concepts.
meanings are
but levels
of arbitrariness

“It is red”
is like
“It is beautiful”
or is it?

players parading as absolutes:
words              precepts
names              truths
concepts                      games
Kantian categories crowding out
the world of things.

outside my window
maple leaves are
mottled now with colors
that only I can see
falling, fallen

I think I know
and I must
act on that possibility
lost between
experiencing and explaining

can you explain
the mottled
falling, fallen
maple leaves?

what is it in those leaves
those variations of gold
brown and orange
that catches my eye
and forces words
from my pen?
have they become symbols?
of death
of life
or are they signs
of Fall?
or merely leaves
falling to the ground?

of the 500,000 words
available to me
surely I can say
what must be said
it is only a matter
of selection and precision,
of the right diction,
of saying right out:
“the many colored maple leaves
are falling in my back yard.”

the slight breeze that was
is no more
the leaves no longer fall
I’ve missed my chance.
the falling leaves fallen
fall no more
and only colorless words fall
on this page
and now the street lights
come on
and silhouette
the remaining leaves
a dog barks in the neighborhood
and the fog
slides between the leaves
and my mind
and the street lights
blurred now look like street lights blurred by fog

to make a poem
is to experience
not to explain
and the poet
and the poem
are as far apart
as the leaves
and my mind

these words
are ambassadors
sent from a plain country
to say right out:
I watched maple leaves
and wrote these words
so that you would know
I had seen them fall.

Discussion and Comments

  1. Thought provoking poem. Thanks.

    • Thanks! I am still thinking about the connection among thought, words, truth, feelings.

  2. Reading this reminds me how much care I must take in what I write.

  3. We negotiate meaning. This poem expresses that with power.

    Thanks, Bob

  4. I agree, ucsb!
    There is what I say (write)
    what you hear (read)
    what I meant
    what you think I meant
    what I think I meant


  5. Nice poem, Bob. Interesting interplay between idea and image. Does the mind impose order, or does the image of the external world determine our ideas? Nice how you leave the writer as the intermediary.

    • Thanks, Ken. Negotiate meaning. That’s the key.