Down to the lake to be alone.

THE COUNTRY WIFE

She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.
Following their voices on the breeze,
She makes her way. Through the dark trees
The distant stars are all she sees.
They cannot light the way she’s gone.
She makes her way through the dark trees
Down to the lake to be alone.

The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.
She cannot see the winds that break
The night reflected on the lake
But knows they motion for her sake.
These are the choices they have brought her:
The night reflected on the lake,
The fire of stars changed into water.

-Dana Gioia

I spent quite a while looking for a nice piece of art, or one of my photos, to accompany the story of this woman’s walk. The trying had the effect of making me love the poem even more; I began to think that only Gioia himself might be capable of creating a visual graphic that wouldn’t actually detract from what he’s already given us in words. There are voices and movement and one thing changing to another….

All the pictures I looked at were still pictures, of course. And none of them could carry half of the feeling of even one material element as expressed by these lines, such as the woods in the dark, or the stars, the water. When there is a stop in the middle of the fourth line, I see her pausing to push aside fir branches. The whole is an elegant interplay of the forces of beings.

Those beings are not only material. For example, the heart and mind of the woman any of us might imagine. It’s a wondrous thing to be able to go with her down to the lake, and yet, not invade her privacy. To have the vicarious experience of being her.  I follow the music, arrive at the lake, and find a solitude as full as the universe.

8 thoughts on “Down to the lake to be alone.

  1. I enjoyed the TS Eliot you posted this week and now also Dana’s poem, which is really lovely and I agree, needed no illustration.

    I read and received the poem on several levels and then was pondering how you and the poem had, in this instance, rightly rousted the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words.
    I then marveled over how few word’s Mr. Goia had indeed used; including the title, if my count was not too hasty, @ one hundred and twenty-six.

    Not to disrupt the beauty of the poem in any way, but I then noticed that this count includes at least seventeen uses of “the.” The count was on…
    17 the
    6 she
    5 lake
    4 her
    3 through
    3 to
    3 on
    3 dark
    3 trees
    3 star
    3 night
    3 makes
    3 way
    3 reflected
    2 be
    2 alone
    2 down
    2 water
    2 fire
    2 changed
    1 knows
    1 see
    1 wind
    1 motion
    1 light
    1 voices
    1 choices
    Well you get the idea…
    Somehow this unpoetic approach continued to accentuate the mystery and beauty of the creative use of language…so few words…and no picture needed…

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  2. Considering how much has been “said” about the effects of being alone during the lockdowns, and it is all true, still there is a time to be alone and to be fully in the moment and truly content. Choosing to be alone might perhaps be the central catalyst of this poem.

    Happy Thanksgiving dear Gretchen.

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  3. That’s a haunting and deceptively simple poem. I find it sinister, esp. as the trees and the wind have intent toward her — are calling her there and are offering her choices as she stands beside the lake. But a beautiful poem. Thank you!

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  4. This isn’t meant to be a criticism of anything: not of the poet, the poem, or the various responses. But it is an interesting commentary on the interaction between readers and particular pieces of writing that I found the poem somewhat pedestrian and, in the end, boring. There wasn’t anything in it that made me think, “Oh, my. I need to find more work by this person.”

    I ended up laughing, because my response to the poem was almost exactly analogous to that of a traveler who passes through, say, Kansas, and says, “There’s nothing here.” Perception’s a mysterious thing!

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  5. The different replies here are interesting. I found the poem a little sad, the woman alone with her choices, but the image and form are lovely. Being alone could be either or both a gift and a curse.

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