In somber forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools a mist of flies,
In their quadrillions rise,
And animate a ragged patch of glow,
With sudden glittering – as when a crowd,
Of stars appear.
Through a brief gap in black and driven could,
One arc of their great round-dance showing clear.
It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
In entrechats each fluttering insect there
Rose two steep yards in air,
Then slowly floated down to climb once more,
So that they all composed a manifold
And figured scene,
And the seemed the weavers of some cloth of gold,
Or the fine pistons of some bright machine.
Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
As night closed in, I felt myself alone
In a life too much my own,
More mortal in my separateness than they –
Unless, I thought, I had been called to be
Not fly or star
But one whose task is joyfully to see
How fair the fiats of the caller are.
— Richard Wilbur
Collected Poems 1943-2004 (Waywiser, 2005), copyright © Richard Wilbur 2005
Tuesday, May 19, 2009