Tuesday Poem: All Things End in Fragrance

I couldn’t resist another poem this week about Starlings, as an interesting contrast. This poem is the final one in the beautiful collection Miscreants (Norton 2007), by the American poet James Hoch. I admire the careful attention to nature, which before we know it has moved to metaphor and by way of metaphor to the elegaic. I admire the way the poem reaches out to include us in its scope. Most of all, I admire the careful syntax that permits for the final line to refer simultaneously to the poem itself and to the reader, all the while referring back via metaphor to the birds:

All Things End in Fragrance

Out the window, starlings
             fidget in the wasted eaves

of a bar burned down last summer.
They pilfer, figure,
                                              engineer

charred wire, booth cushion,
                anything light enough

to haul by beak, wedge high
               between blackened 2 X 4.

A nest,
               a bed for the dying
or just born—
                            The birds shuttle,

their feathers taking on
               what they inhabit,

the way, Dear Witness, the silk
                in your shirts took asafetida,

mustard oil burning
                in a skillet, as this letter

makeshift and late
                                             receives
the leaden face of broken type,

a shape which, for now, says
Stay. Live here awhile

before rising into some other sorrow.

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3 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem: All Things End in Fragrance

  1. Mary McCallum

    Bryan, this is an extraordinary poem. I have been thinking about it since Tuesday. It is intricate and takes time to properly unravel. The images are so dark and broken and unsettled and uncomfortable – like the form of the poem. I don’t find any stillness here. The person is listening, typing, mourning but inside is all that brokeness …. And why the title? I looked up asafetida and that explained it .. gets its name from two languages: assa from the Farsi meaning “resin”, and foetidus, Latin for “stinky” (hence, fetid). Fresh asafetida resin is indeed powerful; it can be unpleasant to the uninitiated but stimulating to its fans.

    Reply
  2. Belinda

    I am so glad you didn’t resist adding this – it’s wonderful. It inspires me to consider other bird poems, the most obvious being Wallace Stevens’s one about the blackbirds …

    Reply

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