I Went to the Summit


I went to the summit and stood in the high nakedness:
the wind tore about this
way and that in confusion and its speech could not
get through to me nor could I address it:
still I said as if to the alien in myself
I do not speak to the wind now:
for having been brought this far by nature I have been
brought out of nature
and nothing here shows me the image of myself:
for the word tree I have been shown a tree
and for the word rock I have been shown a rock,
for stream, for cloud, for star
this place has provided firm implication and answering
but where here is the image for longing:
so I touched the rocks, their interesting crusts:
I flaked the bark of stunt-fir:
I looked into space and into the sun
and nothing answered my word longing:
goodbye, I said, goodbye nature so grand and
reticent, your tongues are healed up into their own element
and as you have shut up you have shut me out: I am
as foreign here as if I had landed, a visitor:
so I went back down and gathered mud
and with my hands made an image for longing:
       I took the image to the summit: first
I set it here, on the rock, but it completed
nothing: then I set it there among the tiny firs
but it would not fit:
so I returned to the city and built a house to set
the image in
and men came into my house and said
that is an image for longing
and nothing will ever be the same again

—A. R. Ammons

Photo credit: Poet on a Mountain Top (杖藜遠眺), Shen Zhou (沈周, 1427-1509), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Album leaf, ink on paper, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri





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