Oh Pale and Brittle Pencils

Some days, some weeks, you just need the poets.

Maybe it feels that way because it’s Spring and spring cleaning is calling — for our closets and our minds — but it sure feels like a pushing through some barrier.  Maybe I’m being too literal here, but so what.  My pencil does feel brittle.  The ebb and flow, with a little too much ebb.

So today.  Today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite Robinson Jeffers poems.  Five years ago I’d never even heard of him.  But ever since I set foot inside his Tor House and Hawk Tower, he’s been right there.

Love The Wild Swan

“I hate my verses, every line, every word.

Oh pale and brittle pencils ever to try

One grass-blade’s curve, or the throat of one bird

That clings to twig, ruffled against white sky.

Oh cracked and twilight mirrors ever to catch

One color, one glinting

Hash, of the splendor of things.

Unlucky hunter, Oh bullets of wax,

The lion beauty, the wild-swan wings, the storm of the wings.”

–This wild swan of a world is no hunter’s game.

Better bullets than yours would miss the white breast

Better mirrors than yours would crack in the flame.

Does it matter whether you hate your . . . self?

At least Love your eyes that can see, your mind that can

Hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan.


8 thoughts on “Oh Pale and Brittle Pencils

  1. Oma

    I love the last two lines of this poem. And yes I too have “poetry days.” I read my books but, every once in a while I have to pick up a book of poems and indulge. Poetry is best read in a cemetary. I hope that doesn’t sound too wierd.

  2. MacDougal Street Baby


    Yesterday I was in a poetry mood myself, which, I admit, doesn’t happen very often anymore. In 7th grade, a classmate of mine wrote a poem that I loved so much I memorized it on the spot. I have recited it often through the years. Yesterday I decided to get back in touch with him and tell him how much joy I got from his writing. He had forgotten the poem and asked if I had a copy. I was so excited to be able to write it out for him. After thirty years, to be able to revisit your own words. I can’t imagine what it felt like.

    Poetry is like water from the tap. Sometimes all you need to do is turn the knob and the words come pouring out.

  3. Deb

    This is why I love coming here, Teri. You make me believe in a higher literary power. Bullets of wax. I’m loading mine right now. If they don’t find their target I’ll seek comfort in the last two lines.

    And… happy writing to you? Maybe? Yes?

    1. erikamarks

      Ditto, Deb. This is why for me too.

      I am always amazed at the power of poetry. Awed, really. I know it is no easier to shape the perfect lines in a poem than it is in other styles of writing, and yet, beautiful poetry makes it seem so effortless, which I suppose is why it is so special.

    2. Teri Post author

      I hear you. I love the first few lines, and the last two — no matter what you think of yourself or your situation or abilities, we writers all hear that wild swan, flapping its wings. Love it.

      “your mind that can hear the music, the thunder of the wings. Love the wild swan”

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