This week’s poem reminds us what it’s like to listen, hard. Is what’s being heard coming from inside or outside of the speaker, sitting on a porch with no one around?

I recommend reading the first sentence a few times. It’s not the easiest to parse as it deftly steps its way down the page, nearly to the end of the second stanza. But this small difficulty has a purpose: the poet is taking us inside a moment, and we readers need to grapple for a moment with the syntax just as the speaker tries to fathom what he’s hearing.

As you read, note also the subtle music at play here: there are a number of slant rhymes that help the poem together sonically.

Robert Farnsworth lives in Greene and has taught writing at Bates for many years. His most recent book of poems, Rumored Islands, was published in 2010.


By Robert Farnsworth

as of the spheres there

must be a music of the past,

but even across this near

noon stillness it’s no more

audible, if no less certain,

than tide swelling in beneath

cool galleries of pine.

The others all gone off walking,

or into books. Shadows begin

to lean across the meadow.

Hushed. Blue. Distance

swings open in me. Still

on this porch. Antiphon.

There. Out there by that empty

granite island. Whale

breathing, intimate as my own.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2004 Robert Farnsworth. It appeared originally in the Southern Poetry Review in 2004 and appears here by permission of the author.

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