I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’d seen Mark Doty at a reading at Cornell. I had only very recently been introduced to Mark Doty’s poetry, by the same friend that invited me to the reading and snuck me into the secret reception afterwards. I can never thank her enough.
If it weren’t for her, I might never have encountered Doty’s spare, tightly-wound verse, and the elegance with which he portrays the natural world.
If it weren’t for her, I might not have had the profound pleasure of hearing said verse read by the author himself, who is blessed with the perfect voice for poetry: edgy, rich, intense, and with a welcome hint of self-mockery.
If it weren’t for her, I almost certainly wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to Mark Doty in person, and find out that he was born in Maryville, Tennessee: the very same tiny town where my husband grew up, where he and Jules and I attended college, and where for a fun post-college year or two Jules and I shared a tiny old four-room farm house with an excellent porch swing and a wicked ant problem.
So thanks, Dana. And now I pay it forward, and share him with the rest of you. Here’s a snippet of Mark Doty’s poem “Pipistrelle:”
Then Charles saw the quick ambassador
fret the spaces between boughs
with an inky signature too fast to trace.
We turned our faces upwards,
trying to read the deepening blue
between black limbs. And he said again,
There he is! Though it seemed only
one of us could see the fluttering pipistrelle
at a time—you’d turn your head to where
he’d been, no luck, he’d already joined
a larger dark. There he is! Paul said it,
then Pippa. Then I caught the fleeting contraption
speeding into a bank of leaves,
and heard the high, two-syllabled piping.
But when I said what I’d heard,
no one else had noticed it, and Charles said,
Only some people can hear their frequencies.
Fifty years old and I didn’t know
I could hear the tender cry of a bat
—cry won’t do: a diminutive chime
somewhere between merriment and weeping…