A Momentary Stay Against Confusion

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost, long after he had written this poem, defined poetry in part as “a momentary stay against confusion.” In the first minutes after I woke this morning, the day after the Brussels attacks, my mind wandered, caught on the events we had learned about, the pictures we watched on the news last night. Then, as I imagined the anguish, the horrors that will/can never be erased, this poem came into my mind and ran itself over and over, like a mantra.

There is part of each of us that lives in those who were closest to the bombs, whose lives were destroyed, in those who try to live and survive with terrible wounds.

“One wonders if the center will hold,” Tom said as I finished saying the poem for him later in the day.

The poem I put in our Poetry Box the day before the attacks, Archibald MacLeish’s “Ars Poetica,” ends with the lines:

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

“A momentary stay” that may do as little as a bomb does to heal the wrongs and the inequalities in the world, but one which does not worsen, maim, or wreak destruction.

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