A Natural Poet
Earthly delights in the shade of Robert Frost.
Nov 26, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 11 • By ANN STAPLETON
Suppression of such an essential aspect of Francis’s nature might well be the battery that runs the silver timepiece of his art. But if this alone were his subject, its appeal would be limited, and Francis’s best poems—such as the one above, such as all good poems—are meant for anyone, and are everlasting. Perhaps Francis’s true subject is the silent one who goes uncomforted (What do we know of night?), the wind’s last friend, who’s always been; that patiently waiting and painfully hopeful stone man with a beating heart.
Francis was a connoisseur of loneliness, an authority and specialist. In “Cypresses,” his Trees / Of Death (teaching birds / In little schools, by little skills, / how to be shadows) embody Always an attitude of solitude / To point the paradox of standing / Alone together. In “Ladybird, Ladybird,” a tiny red beetle (on the parchment shade of [a] reading lamp) becomes a saving grace: a tall tale / I could tell if I wanted to / for no one to believe: an angel / sent to cheer a lone man’s evening chair. The two beggars who are turned away with nothing to eat in “Two Bums Walk Out of Eden” leave a little / Briskly as men heedful to waste no time— / As men bending their steps toward due appointments. In “Eagle Soaring,” the solitary writer is depicted as a raptor wheeling high, Above all in the complete undistraction / And extreme loneliness of his observational.
In “Remind Me of Apples,” Francis writes to an anonymous “someone” in the language of light, touching briefly on what we love and are losing; he is the stone man who waits for us, trying to remember it all, keeping watch:
Ann Stapleton is a writer in Ohio.