Do Poets Write Verse this Good?

Do you remember a fragrance girls acquire in autumn? As you walk beside them after school, they tighten their arms about their books and bend their heads forward to give a more flattering attention to your words, and in the little intimate area thus formed, carved into the clear air by an implicit crescent, there is a complex fragrance woven of tobacco, powder, lipstick, rinsed hair, and that perhaps imaginary and certainly elusive scent that wool, whether in the lapels of a jacket or the nap of a sweater, seems to yield when the cloudless fall sky, like the blue bell of a vacuum, lifts toward itself the glad exhalations of all things. This fragrance, so faint and flirtatious on those afternoon walks through the dry leaves, would be banked a thousandfold on the dark slope of the stadium when, Friday nights, we played football in the city. (John Updike, “In Football Season” from Olinger Stories)

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4 thoughts on “Do Poets Write Verse this Good?

  1. Pearl Avenue runs past the high-school lot,
    Bends with the trolley tracks, and stops, cut off
    Before it has a chance to go two blocks,
    At Colonel McComsky Plaza. Berth’s Garage
    Is on the corner facing west, and there,
    Most days, you’ll find Flick Webb, who helps Berth out.

    Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
    He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
    He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
    A county record still. The ball loved Flick.
    I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
    In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.

    He never learned a trade, he just sells gas,
    Checks oil, and changes flats. Once in a while,
    As a gag, he dribbles an inner tube,
    But most of us remember anyway.
    His hands are fine and nervous on the lug wrench.
    It makes no difference to the lug wrench, though.

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  2. That’s great – Updike is a master. Mark Helprin is another lyrical prose master – here he is in Winter’s Tale, channeling his inner Augustine:

    “And yet there is a wonderful anarchy, in that the milkman chooses when to arise, the rat picks the tunnel into which he will dive when the subway comes rushing down the track from Borough Hall, and the snowflake will fall as it will. How can this be? If nothing is random and everything is predetermined, how can there be free will? The answer to that is simple. Nothing is predetermined; it is determined, or was determined, or will be determined. No matter, it all happened at once, in less than an instant, and time was invented because we cannot comprehend in one glance the enormous and detailed canvas that we have been given – so we track it, in linear fashion, piece by piece. Time, however, can be easily overcome; not by chasing the light, but by standing back far enough to see it all at once. The universe is still and complete. Everything that ever was, is; everything that ever will be, is – and so on, in all possible combinations. Though in perceiving it we imagine that it is in motion, and unfinished, it is quite finished and quite astonishingly beautiful. In the end, or, rather, as things really are, any event, no matter how small, is intimately and sensibly tied to all others. All rivers run full to the sea; those who are apart are brought back together; the lost ones are redeemed; the dead come back to life; the perfectly blue days that have begun and ended in golden dimness continue, immobile and accessible; and, when all is perceived in such a way as to obviate time, justice becomes apparent not as something that will be, but as something that is.”

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