September 15, 2011

About a poem: "Ochre and Blue" by Chase Twichell

The Fall 2011 issue of Tricycle features a poem by Chase Twichell, "Ochre and Blue." Beneath the poem is commentary from Twichell on how the poem came to be. Beneath the commentary is a button, push it and listen to Twichell read her poem.

Ochre and Blue
Waking to ochre birch leaves
sinking in the blue undersea of dawn,

I swim in the same currents,
needing nothing.

Later I'll forget this,
and mourn the end of autumn.

What's left to be said
about being human?

About “Ochre and Blue”
Painting was my first love. Recently, after many years of not-painting, I started to fool around with oils, and as an exercise made a big chart of how different colors behave when mixed. “Ochre and Blue” came to me one morning during this period of experimentation in another zone of perception: paint.

Outside our bedroom window there used to be three big birches growing in a clump. Now there are two. Soon there will be only one. Birches are not long-lived, especially those growing in groups, because water gets between the trunks and makes them vulnerable to rot. On this particular morning I was thinking about the absent third tree and watching leaves fall from the survivors. They were exactly ochre, but the blue in which they were floating was no color I could name: a gloomy, changeable blue, both warm and cool, more like water than air to my eye, and I felt that powerful rush of wordless energy that means a poem is coming. The first three couplets arrived quickly, but suddenly I came up against a silence I couldn’t penetrate. No matter what direction I took, the poem refused to allow me to tack anything onto it. It was six lines long: tiny! For a few days I put it aside. When I looked at it again, I realized (duh!) that there was nothing to add. The poet-human wanted to write a Big Poem (ego interference) but the poem knew what it’s real work was, and that it had already done it. After it taught me that, the ending was obvious.

Chase Twichell's most recent book is Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems (2010). She is a student at Zen Mountain Monastery.

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