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Simple Sonatina by Tess Gallagher

December 20, 1987

Something is dying, but without blood or writhing on any shore. Everything seems as it was: no poets dignified with prison, none banished or tortured. Each of us has enough paper to write the histories of several worlds. We don't fear the knock at the door. And yet, this stench, this oversweet stillness reaches even here among the nations of spruce and hemlock, head-high salal and the thorny devil's club. That country I could speak with intimately in myself, country Whitman honored, teeming and lustrous, country I crossed and recrossed like a thrown-out child until anywhere wasn't home--something of that country has made its dying spot in the woods, and, slug-bellied with salvage, crawls away. These are lying times, my friends, lying times. Easy to say the varnished brutes want to cozy up again, when again convicts. No heroics here.

I don't regret a single poem about "the tawny- throated nightingale," or simple duty which "hath no place for fear," or Longfellow's "soft bells, and gleaming nights." But something of what I loved is alone in me now, as it is for many who loved so. In this indifferent time harmony wears too amiable a face, and I can't sing "Melancholy Baby" any more. \f7 From "Amplitude: New and Selected Poems" by Tess Gallagher (Graywolf Press). Gallagher has published three volumes of poetry, "Instructions to the Double," "Under Stars" and "Willingly." She is also the author of a book of essays, "A Concert of Tenses," a collection of short stories, "The Lover of Horses" and a published screenplay, "Dostoevsky," co-written with Raymond Carver. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Gallagher teaches in the graduate Writing Program at Syracuse University.

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