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Best Famous Amy Clampitt Poems

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Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

A Silence

 past parentage or gender
beyond sung vocables
the slipped-between
the so infinitesimal
fault line
a limitless

beyond the woven
unicorn the maiden
(man-carved worm-eaten)
God at her hip
the untransfigured
bluebell and primrose
growing wild a strawberry
chagrin night terrors
past the earthlit
unearthly masquerade

(we shall be changed)

a silence opens


the larval feeder
naked hairy ravenous
inventing from within
itself its own
raw stuffs'
hooked silk-hung

behind the mask
the milkfat shivering
sinew isinglass
uncrumpling transient
greed to reinvest


names have been
given (revelation
kif nirvana
syncope) for
whatever gift
gives birth to

reincarnations of
the angels
Joseph Smith

a cavernous
compunction driving
who saw in it
the infinite
love of God
and had
(George Fox
was one)
great openings

Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

Nothing Stays Put

 In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985

The strange and wonderful are too much with us.
The protea of the antipodes—a great, globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom— for sale in the supermarket! We are in our decadence, we are not entitled.
What have we done to deserve all the produce of the tropics— this fiery trove, the largesse of it heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed and crested, standing like troops at attention, these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons grown sumptuous with stoop labor? The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us before there is a yen or a need for it.
The green- grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea.
Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are disposed on the sidewalks; alstroemerias, freesias fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson; as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these bachelor's buttons.
But it isn't the railway embankments their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it's a row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos, snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies, in my grandmother's garden: a prairie childhood, the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid, unsealed, furrowed, harrowed and sown with immigrant grasses, their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch of living matter, sown and tended by women, nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful, beneath whose hands what had been alien begins, as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous.
But at this remove what I think of as strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom, a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above— is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood.
Nothing stays put.
The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're made of, is motion.
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

Beach Glass

 While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning.
The ocean, cumbered by no business more urgent than keeping open old accounts that never balanced, goes on shuffling its millenniums of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves toward the permutations of novelty— driftwood and shipwreck, last night's beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up residue of plastic—with random impartiality, playing catch or tag ot touch-last like a terrier, turning the same thing over and over, over and over.
For the ocean, nothing is beneath consideration.
The houses of so many mussels and periwinkles have been abandoned here, it's hopeless to know which to salvage.
Instead I keep a lookout for beach glass— amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase of Almadén and Gallo, lapis by way of (no getting around it, I'm afraid) Phillips' Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst of no known origin.
The process goes on forever: they came from sand, they go back to gravel, along with treasuries of Murano, the buttressed astonishments of Chartres, which even now are readying for being turned over and over as gravely and gradually as an intellect engaged in the hazardous redefinition of structures no one has yet looked at.
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

A Catalpa Tree On West Twelfth Street

 While the sun stops, or
seems to, to define a term
for the indeterminable,
the human aspect, here
in the West Village, spindles
to a mutilated dazzle—

niched shards of solitude
embedded in these brownstone
walkups such that the Hudson
at the foot of Twelfth Street
might be a thing that's 
done with mirrors: definition

by deracination—grunge,
hip-hop, Chinese takeout,
co-ops—while the globe's
elixir caters, year by year,
to the resurgence of this
climbing tentpole, frilled and stippled

yet again with bloom
to greet the solstice:
What year was it it over-
took the fire escape? The
roof's its next objective.
Will posterity (if there is any)pause to regret such layerings of shade, their cadenced crests' trans- valuation of decay, the dust and perfume of an all too terminable process?
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem


 A vagueness comes over everything,
as though proving color and contour
alike dispensable: the lighthouse
extinct, the islands' spruce-tips
drunk up like milk in the
universal emulsion; houses
reverting into the lost
and forgotten; granite
subsumed, a rumor
in a mumble of ocean.
Tactile definition, however, has not been totally banished: hanging tassel by tassel, panicled foxtail and needlegrass, dropseed, furred hawkweed, and last season's rose-hips are vested in silenced chimes of the finest, clearest sea-crystal.
Opacity opens up rooms, a showcase for the hueless moonflower corolla, as Georgia O'Keefe might have seen it, of foghorns; the nodding campanula of bell buoys; the ticking, linear filigree of bird voices.

Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem


 Lost aboard the roll of Kodac-
olor that was to have super-
seded all need to remember
Somerset were: a large flock

of winter-bedcover-thick-
pelted sheep up on the moor;
a stile, a church spire, 
and an excess, at Porlock,

of tenderly barbarous antique
thatch in tandem with flower-
beds, relentlessly pictur-
esque, along every sidewalk;

a millwheel; and a millbrook 
running down brown as beer.
Exempt from the disaster.
however, as either too quick or too subtle to put on rec- ord, were these: the flutter of, beside the brown water, with a butterfly-like flick of fan-wings, a bright black- and-yellow wagtail; at Dulver- ton on the moor, the flavor of the hot toasted teacake drowning in melted butter we had along with a bus-tour- load of old people; the driver 's way of smothering every r in the wool of a West Countr- y diphthong, and as a Somer- set man, the warmth he had for the high, wild, heather- dank wold he drove us over.
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

Easter Morning

 a stone at dawn
cold water in the basin
these walls' rough plaster
after the hammering
of so much insistence
on the need for naming
after the travesties
that passed as faces,
grace: the unction
of sheer nonexistence
upwelling in this
hyacinthine freshet
of the unnamed
the faceless
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

A Hedge Of Rubber Trees

 The West Village by then was changing; before long
the rundown brownstones at its farthest edge
would have slipped into trendier hands.
She lived, impervious to trends, behind a potted hedge of rubber trees, with three cats, a canary—refuse from whose cage kept sifting down and then germinating, a yearning seedling choir, around the saucers on the windowsill—and an inexorable cohort of roaches she was too nearsighted to deal with, though she knew they were there, and would speak of them, ruefully, as of an affliction that might once, long ago, have been prevented.
Unclassifiable castoffs, misfits, marginal cases: when you're one yourself, or close to it, there's a reassurance in proving you haven't quite gone under by taking up with somebody odder than you are.
Or trying to.
"They're my friends," she'd say of her cats—Mollie, Mitzi and Caroline, their names were, and she was forever taking one or another in a cab to the vet—as though she had no others.
The roommate who'd become a nun, the one who was Jewish, the couple she'd met on a foliage tour, one fall, were all people she no longer saw.
She worked for a law firm, said all the judges were alcoholic, had never voted.
But would sometimes have me to dinner—breaded veal, white wine, strawberry Bavarian—and sometimes, from what she didn't know she was saying, I'd snatch a shred or two of her threadbare history.
Baltic cold.
Being sent home in a troika when her feet went numb.
In summer, carriage rides.
A swarm of gypsy children driven off with whips.
An octogenarian father, bishop of a dying schismatic sect.
A very young mother who didn't want her.
A half-brother she met just once.
Cousins in Wisconsin, one of whom phoned her from a candy store, out of the blue, while she was living in Chicago.
What had brought her there, or when, remained unclear.
As did much else.
We'd met in church.
I noticed first a big, soaring soprano with a wobble in it, then the thickly wreathed and braided crimp in the mouse- gold coiffure.
Old? Young? She was of no age.
Through rimless lenses she looked out of a child's, or a doll's, globular blue.
Wore Keds the year round, tended otherwise to overdress.
Owned a mandolin.
Once I got her to take it down from the mantel and plink out, through a warm fuddle of sauterne, a lot of giddy Italian airs from a songbook whose pages had started to crumble.
The canary fluffed and quivered, and the cats, amazed, came out from under the couch and stared.
What could the offspring of the schismatic age and a reluctant child bride expect from life? Not much.
Less and less.
A dream she'd had kept coming back, years after.
She'd taken a job in Washington with some right-wing lobby, and lived in one of those bow-windowed mansions that turn into roominghouses, and her room there had a full-length mirror: oval, with a molding, is the way I picture it.
In her dream something woke her, she got up to look, and there in the glass she'd had was covered over—she gave it a wondering emphasis—with gray veils.
The West Village was changing.
I was changing.
The last time I asked her to dinner, she didn't show.
Hours— or was it days?—later, she phoned to explain: she hadn't been able to find my block; a patrolman had steered her home.
I spent my evenings canvassing for Gene McCarthy.
Passing, I'd see her shades drawn, no light behind the rubber trees.
She wasn't out, she didn't own a TV.
She was in there, getting gently blotto.
What came next, I wasn't brave enough to know.
Only one day, passing, I saw new shades, quick-chic matchstick bamboo, going up where the waterstained old ones had been, and where the seedlings— O gray veils, gray veils—had risen and gone down.
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem


 Like the foghorn that's all lung,
the wind chime that's all percussion,
like the wind itself, that's merely air
in a terrible fret, without so much
as a finger to articulate
what ails it, the aeolian
syrinx, that reed
in the throat of a bird,
when it comes to the shaping of
what we call consonants, is
too imprecise for consensus
about what it even seems to
be saying: is it o-ka-lee
or con-ka-ree, is it really jug jug,
is it cuckoo for that matter?—
much less whether a bird's call
means anything in
particular, or at all.
Syntax comes last, there can be no doubt of it: came last, can be thought of (is thought of by some) as a higher form of expression: is, in extremity, first to be jettisoned: as the diva onstage, all soaring pectoral breathwork, takes off, pure vowel breaking free of the dry, the merely fricative husk of the particular, rises past saying anything, any more than the wind in the trees, waves breaking, or Homer's gibbering Thespesiae iache: those last-chance vestiges above the threshold, the all- but dispossessed of breath.
Written by Amy Clampitt | Create an image from this poem

A Hermit Thrush

 Nothing's certain.
Crossing, on this longest day, the low-tide-uncovered isthmus, scrambling up the scree-slope of what at high tide will be again an island, to where, a decade since well-being staked the slender, unpremeditated claim that brings us back, year after year, lugging the makings of another picnic— the cucumber sandwiches, the sea-air-sanctified fig newtons—there's no knowing what the slamming seas, the gales of yet another winter may have done.
Still there, the gust-beleaguered single spruce tree, the ant-thronged, root-snelled moss, grass and clover tuffet underneath it, edges frazzled raw but, like our own prolonged attachment, holding.
Whatever moral lesson might commend itself, there's no use drawing one, there's nothing here to seize on as exemplifying any so-called virtue (holding on despite adversity, perhaps) or any no-more-than-human tendency— stubborn adherence, say, to a wholly wrongheaded tenet.
Though to hold on in any case means taking less and less for granted, some few things seem nearly certain, as that the longest day will come again, will seem to hold its breath, the months-long exhalation of diminishment again begin.
Last night you woke me for a look at Jupiter, that vast cinder wheeled unblinking in a bath of galaxies.
Watching, we traveled toward an apprehension all but impossible to be held onto— that no point is fixed, that there's no foothold but roams untethered save by such snells, such sailor's knots, such stays and guy wires as are mainly of our own devising.
From such an empyrean, aloof seraphic mentors urge us to look down on all attachment, on any bonding, as in the end untenable.
Base as it is, from year to year the earth's sore surface mends and rebinds itself, however and as best it can, with thread of cinquefoil, tendril of the magenta beach pea, trammel of bramble; with easings, mulchings, fragrances, the gray-green bayberry's cool poultice— and what can't finally be mended, the salt air proceeds to buff and rarefy: the lopped carnage of the seaward spruce clump weathers lustrous, to wood-silver.
Little is certain, other than the tide that circumscribes us that still sets its term to every picnic—today we stayed too long again, and got our feet wet— and all attachment may prove at best, perhaps, a broken, a much-mended thing.
Watching the longest day take cover under a monk's-cowl overcast, with thunder, rain and wind, then waiting, we drop everything to listen as a hermit thrush distills its fragmentary, hesitant, in the end unbroken music.
From what source (beyond us, or the wells within?) such links perceived arrive— diminished sequences so uninsistingly not even human—there's hardly a vocabulary left to wonder, uncertain as we are of so much in this existence, this botched, cumbersome, much-mended, not unsatisfactory thing.