Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Poetry by Fred Wolven

Three poems
by Fred Wolven


Years ago he worked at his craft, fashioning verses,
cutting out his childhood days, recognizing his father’s
strength, acknowledging his uncle’s family devotion,
and eventually capturing his affection for a young wife.

All this activity, all his attention, whether to plants,
to fowl, to fish, to tiny creatures underground, or even
to the love of his life—a delicate creature, a real beauty
culled from among his many admirers, his adoring public.

And then Roethke had this ability to recreate, to bring
to life, unlike no other writer I’ve known, the supple leaf,
the unexplored roots and branches of knarwled trees
aging in woodlots of the Sound, in forests of his Michigan.

Then, he worked; now, he is appreciated, respected for
what he accomplished, for the finely tuned edges of sound,
for the fascinating symbols drawn from nature—the rose,
the mouse, the thing (bird), the trout—and his praise in verse.

Ah, I am but beginning, starting, having been given such
an opportunity, to enjoy my love, young, lively as she is.



Years ago, I watched him sit there. Now, I don’t know if he
might still be lingering in the neighboring woods,
if his spirit has become somehow intertwined with
the poet’s own, and if the two are now more connected?

I never had the opportunity to walk through the ferns nor
pass the Buddha as Roethke did sheltered as he was in a
hooded sweat. He absorbed the flavor of the plants, the
delicate wildflowers, the seasonal budding leaves and

branches, each first nibbling then poking through their skin,
then gulping in fresh air and scarce sunlight. He, the poet,
took naturally to the far west with its open skies, starlit
nights, smog free air, and woodlots populated with Douglas

firs – their bark a reddish brown and rough fluted, and the
Western hemlocks with their acorn size light brown cones.
Wandering, as he did, into woodlots and fields filled with
wood ferns, with lady ferns and their delicate light green

fronds, and maidenhair ferns with black vertical stems, he
found places for some in verse lines, images, in poetic songs.



How back then it seemed so ironic that he wrote about Woodlawn,
about watching and missing the passing horse drawn black hearses;
ironic that there he too would rest that day back in 63. I remember
spending part of a day trying to locate his grave site. I’m not sure

that I really actually wanted to. After all, what would I have done
then, what would I have said had I stood there alongside his head
stone? Instead, I moved on, I left her standing alone, not realizing
I would never be back, that I’d never return to his hometown,

never retrace his footsteps, never again pass by his family nursery,
nor retouch the trees in those woodlots, walk through those fields,
find quite the same edge when I touch the Michigan wildflowers,
watch the same small critters on the surface of streams, notice those

field mice scurry across open spaces, see the hawk dive for its
unsuspecting prey, hear the jay-jaying of nature’s blues, observe
the cardinal pair—their colors at once bright and dull. Roethke
still prowls there, he gives meaning to the muck and mire of the

land, and his spirit resides there with or without the cat or the
cat’s spirit at least. Now, what am I left to do, reread his poems?

Author bio:

Fred Wolven, a recently retired College professor, edits Ann Arbor Review (a poetry journal) online. He writes poetry, encourages younger and newer poets and writers, has refound the love of his life, and appreciates having time to walk, talk and enjoy friends. These poems are from 1 of 3 different series reflecting the impact/influence of the late Theodore Roethke. At one time while Roethke was being filmed reading and performing in his Pudget Sound home, his cat sat, just sat - Buddha like, outside the screen door looking in. Thus, somehow, these poems....

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