Certain scenes keep returning in memory to represent something essential in a life, the way bits of a movie trailer represent the movie -- a scrap of dialogue, a facial expression, a landscape. Poetry, by creating such a scene in one life -- something Mother once said, for example -- can crystallize and hold up for inspection forces that govern life in general. Poetic attention gives the circumstances of a moment in one life some of the enduring qualities of myth. Here is an extraordinary poem of that kind from Tom Sleigh's new book, Space Walk:
Out in the garden, the wind was like a dog
digging in the snow, digging with its nails
to make a bed to lie down in against the freezing air:
and in my exhaustion, my stupefied numb thought
dug and dug its way down to where I knew
you were--though how could I believe it?
Once, your irony and honesty refused
to let you say, "Oh yes, my son the genius!"
when I showed you a poem-- saying with Groucho deadpan,
as you handed me back the paper, the typed words
already a little smudged: "Hopkins is a good poet."