My one-year-old grandson John has climbed up
on the couch where I have been reading Updike,
and, standing, looks out the window to the lilacs
where a catbird spills itself in long bursts
of toowees, cluks, whooits and meows and now
he, too, finds his way to runs of throaty vowels
and a comedic tumble of consonants that possess
the force and urgency of a sentence revving up
against the impossibility of catching all it hopes
to describe, this little window world pollen-heavy,
my grandson’s buzzing word-like sounds working
like bees to gather in spring’s excess.
And now rain is falling through the sunlight,
the newly green lilac leaves glistening,
and John has tottered off towards the sounds
of our dog in the kitchen; I am returning slowly
to Updike, the sound of his sentences mixing
with the catbird who is at it again, the two of them
full of a sexual longing for the completion of form.
I hear him again—not the preening Updike,
chest fluffed out in display, but the man
who believed, the world is the host; it must be
chewed, tasted in the sweet pouring forth of words.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.