Robert Farrell

Robert Farrell

Robert Farrell lives and works in the Bronx, New York, as a librarian. 

Friday, 21 July 2017 18:01


Published in Poetry


by Robert Farrell

One hears and moves toward it. One moves, but is
Not in it, what does not
Keep but flowers forth. We aren’t it. It is
What lets the sky appear,
The sunrise rise to site a circle in
Hills whose rocks refuse to
Recognize themselves in us. It’s good they
Let us be. It’s why we’re
Here. And certain there is play and kinship
When children jump, and sheep,
Or bells take wing from ice cream trucks. Here it
Is, in hills that ring the
Ringing rocks and us, in walls that ward, not
As fences that enclose
Parks, but as a windbreak protects the field
Or olive trees the grape-
Filled vine. We’re free to roam. It’s our right to
Amble out beyond the
Gate. Not nature but valor sustains it,
Yet much depends upon
Conditions. Young shoots need water and fruits
Are only proved on tongues.
They flourish then are gone. An everyday
Struggle it is to stand
And breathe and, in the breathing, live. There is
Nothing stranger. We are
Tourists. It is a wandering thing. So
Many pictures that we
Wonder what will nourish us, what it is,
And where we’ll go to find
Our rocks and what to build, how we’ll know
Our arts will yield the strength
We need to harden hearts to fear but not
To love. Benny Rothman
Once touched it in 1932 when
He stood atop Kinder
Scout with four hundred fellow ramblers, Rothman,
The child of immigrants
(Romanian Jews), a boy who left school
Despite the place he’d won
At fourteen (his son would study science
And get a PhD).
The family needed money. He was then
An errand boy. Later
He’d build a bike from parts he scrounged from scrap.
It was on that bike he
Rode from Manchester to Wales, there to hike
Up Snowdon. It was his
First time in the mountains and he tasted
Freedom there, traced a kind
Of Sunday feeling, for on the weekend
A working man could walk.
There were camping clubs and CP outings
Where the poor and jobless
Would converse about the villains who stole
The common from the goose.
But more they’d talk about the Duke who shot
At grouse, the wooden liars,
Or the keepers who warned them off the moors.
A run-in with these thugs
Led some men to plan a trespass on the
Mountain in numbers too
Great to stop. And so they came from Sheffield
And from Manchester, two
Groups, to Kinder Scout, 2080
Odd feet above the sea,
Its summit. But he lost heart, the scheduled
Speaker, was frightened by
The wardens and police on hand. They, too,
Numbered high. It was then
Rothman rose and spoke, the diminutive
Mancunian (he was
Under five feet tall), not in words like these
That praise such deeds, but in
Those that kindle courage. He went to jail
For it and his arrest
Would make it hard to find employment the
Next four years. He fought the
Fascists in that time. Metro-Vicks would hire
Him and he’d stay there. A
Union leader, he strove for access to
The land until his death.
That such things are possible make them not
To be forgotten. Know
This: decisions can be unmade but we
Can hold to beginnings.
What founds us also finds. Above all, life
Is trial. So let us leave
Our monumental selves and go, for when
The sun is up our eyes
Are sharp whereas by night our ears are best.
There’s a conversation
In the landscape once we hear it, once we
Learn to move and be and
Be in it, a question that’s asked again.
Though it repeats it’s not
The same but is as color is in light:
It’s always there. Different,
It’s a common wealth. Such gifts aren’t given
Without gall to those who
Want. The grass stretches to the hills. And
Though the victory is
Small why should we be silent? It’s true. Not
Much has happened and we
Have no harp. Yes, it’s quiet here but not
Private, not remotely,
For look, we’re here together. We’ve set out.
We dance when chance offers
And sleep well knowing the day’s work will be
Hard. The golden cup? That’s
Babylon. And though full of strife this time,
Too, is beautiful. It
Is not bad, just dangerous, but where danger
Is there is also grace.

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