The pilot of the droning plane above cannot conceive
the lazy summer sound his craft’s exploding pistons leave
to swim through waves of warmth to us, who, watching far below,
in turn cannot conceive the kinesthesia he must know.
Sit and listen, how the swimmers splash across the lake;
they can never step away and hear the sounds they make,
and so are only singing, never listen to the song.
The dead can stand detached, but cannot live through life along
with swimmers, pilots, all: the superficial and the rest,
who feel life’s essence; we, apart but feeling, can know best
their vices and their virtues — climbing hopes and crawling fears;
our power to observe outweighs the retrospect of years.
Things which cannot feel themselves are also in our view:
Tin roofs dulled with rust, a live oak’s mottled shade, a hue
of sunset’s autumn: such as these we add to our wide store
of feelings and appraisals, which, combined, make something more.
Trinity Review – 1965