3 Poems About Sitting
In a certain way, all poems are about sitting, or at least they come from this repose. They all come from moments, days, weeks of sitting. The poet sitting under a tree, composing, is an image that comes to mind. Though it's less glamorous than that, for most writers. I've always appreciated a writer who situates herself, though, in a poem. I love descriptions of the writer's room, the steps she climbs to get there, the view out the window. I love Eavan Boland's “The Rooms of Other Women Poets.” And I also am fond of the work of Charles Wright, who often begins a poem by situating himself:
“Three years ago, in the afternoons,
I used to sit back here and try
To answer the simple arithmetic of my life...”
or, from “Looking Around”:
I sit where I always sit, in back of the Buddha,
Red leather wing chair, pony skin trunk
under my feet,
Sky light above me, Chinese and Indian rugs on the floor.
1 March, 1998, where to begin again?
In the three poems below, the act of sitting is transporting. In “I Sit” by Shuntaro Tanikawa the sitter is enchanted, even. When he stands after some time, even a sip of water becomes wondrous. And in one of my all-time favourite poems, Phyllis Webb becomes “only remotely human.” In the last poem by Denise Levertov, she takes the reader into the past, as she remembers sitting on the “old wooden steps to the front door” which no longer exist, except for in memory.
Whenever we're sitting, we're sitting in our life, as Levertov says. And isn't that a miracle, too?
by Shuntaro Tanikawa
One afternoon with the sky covered in thin clouds
I sit on a sofa
like a shelled clam
There are things I must tend to
but I do nothing
simply sitting enchanted
Those that are beautiful are beautiful
Even those that are ugly
somehow look beautiful
Simply being here is
I become something other than myself
I stand up to
drink a sip of water
water is also wondrous
by Phyllis Webb
The degree of nothingness
to sit emptily
in the sun
that is the way
an extraordinary world,
A Time Past
by Denise Levertov
The old wooden steps to the front door
where I was sitting that fall morning
when you came downstairs, just awake,
and my joy at sight of you (emerging
into golden day—
the dew almost frost)
pulled me to my feet to tell you
how much I loved you:
those wooden steps
are gone now, decayed
replaced with granite,
hard, gray, and handsome.
The old steps live
only in me:
my feet and thighs
remember them, and my hands
still feel their splinters.
Everything else about and around that house
brings memories of others—of marriage,
of my son. And the steps do too: I recall
sitting there with my friend and her little son who died,
or was it the second one who lives and thrives?
And sitting there ‘in my life,’ often, alone or with my husband.
Yet that one instant,
your cheerful, unafraid, youthful, ‘I love you too,’
the quiet broken by no bird, no cricket, gold leaves
spinning in silence down without
any breeze to blow them,
is what twines itself
in my head and body across those slabs of wood
that were warm, ancient, and now
wait somewhere to be burnt.