Clearing the Sill of the World

Creating art is the process of surprising yourself. And when that happens, when your creation surprises you by what it becomes––by what it was able to become because you stopped trying to control it––there are few things more exhilarating. The same is true of children––of themselves and their creations. I was not prepared for the profundity of my children becoming artists.

The Writer Justin Harris
The Writer, by Justin Harris

The Writer

.

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

.

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.

.

But now it is she who pauses,

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

.

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent.

.

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

.

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

.

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

.

And wait then, humped and bloody,

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

.

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world.

.

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.

.

––Richard Wilbur

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Night After Night, My Love, I Put To Sea

I recently read Richard Wilbur’s latest collection. Anterooms. He is truly one of the great American poets.

The House

Sometimes, on waking, she would close her eyes
For a last look at that white house she knew
In sleep alone, and held no title to,
And had not entered yet, for all her sighs.

What did she tell me of that house of hers?
White gatepost; terrace; fanlight of the door;
A widow’s walk above the bouldered shore;
Salt winds that ruffle the surrounding firs.

Is she now there, wherever there may be?
Only a foolish man would hope to find
That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind.
Night after night, my love, I put to sea.

––Richard Wilbur