Need to Chill?

Black Bird

Black Bird (Photo credit: helmsjan)

Sometimes you just really need to kick back, detach, and escape from the nattering, frustrating minutia and bad news of everyday life. Especially today.

One of my favorite poets is my perfect fix for this desperate neediness, and one of my favorite poems of his follows. It’s Zen-like, profound and frequent re-reading of it yields marvelous insights and epideictic (old Aristotle) results.  I highly recommend it for tough times as an analgesic and a fair chance of a good night’s sleep.

Bene notte.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird


Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the black bird.


I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.


The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.




About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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4 Responses to Need to Chill?

  1. cafecasey says:

    What a beautiful poem. Thank you. I am going to go outside and visit nature for a bit and clear my foggy mind:)


    • Stevens’ “indecipherable cause” of which the blackbird is both a portent and symbol is something everyone struggles with at some points in life when nothing –even for people of faith–seems to make sense, or in fact seems to prove there is no sense (rhyme or reason) to anything. I don’t know how he does it, but in this poem he seems to offer a route to transcendence over the terrible and terrifying enigma when one is confronted with the baffling awfulness of certain events in life. I always breathe a sigh of relief when I read this poem even though no inscrutable difficult questions are parsed out and explained once and for all. This is a gift only the greatest poets can give us Thank you for your comment. Wasn’t sure people would connect with the indirection and allusiveness of poem. SO glad some did


  2. J.B. Long says:

    Thank you for “Epideictic” and the wonderful poem. Hopefully I can put this lovely word to good use in study and ceremonial oratory. 🙂


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