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Two Poems by Chase Twichell


Poet's Choice

By Robert Hass
November 1, 1998

Chase Twichell lives in the Adirondacks. In the past 10 years she's published three very different and very strong books. The first, "Perdido," was about desire and sexuality and dreams. The second, "The Ghost of Eden," came as a surprise – an angry, clear-headed book about the destruction of the earth – as if she'd shaken off dreams and desire and taken a hard look at the way things were. The newest book, "The Snow Watcher" (Ontario Review Press), has just arrived in bookstores, and it's a surprise again. Its setting is in her territory, the beautiful Keene Valley not too far from Lake Champlain, and the subject, or the background of her subjects, is her work as a student of Zen Buddhism. I recommend the new book, but if you go to poetry partly for a taste of the movement of inner life, I recommend you read all three of them. They track the inner movements of one life with an unexpected freshness.

Reading the poems in "The Snow Watcher" is like breathing cold air. Organized as a kind of narrative of her apprenticeship in Zen meditation, they are full of sharp observation, both of the world and herself, unsentimental poems with a sinewy intellectual toughness, and, as the book progresses, they open out into a stark, sometimes bewildered clarity. Here are a couple of them:

The Innocents

The watcher guarded the innocent one,
that was their relationship.
When the innocent one was in danger

had angered the mother or father
maybe, walked out on some thin ice

on purpose (for the sharp defining edges
of it) and suddenly needed a rescue,
the watcher would be the rescuer.

That allowed the innocent one to grow up
reckless: she was always stabbing herself

in the heart to see what each new kind of love
felt like. Then her savior the watcher
would heal her wound by explaining everything.

We're a very solid couple, the two of us.
We've grown up into a fine double person

Weightless, Like a River

I heard of a teacher and went to him.
In the monastery I studied his words
and the way he moved his body.

He seemed weightless, like a river,
both in his words and in his body.

Dawn zazen, the windows'
river light . . . I heard
his bare feet on the wood floor.

All the slow fish of ignorance
turned toward the sound.

(From "The Snow Watcher" by Chase Twichell, Ontario Review Press, 1998. Reprinted with permission)

Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, is the author, most recently, of the collection "Sun Under Wood."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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