David Ignatow, “Three in Transition” … the hum of spiders…

David Ignatow

“Three in Transition”

     (for WCW)

I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?

I lie in the field
still, absorbing the stars
and silently throwing off
their presence. Silently
I breathe and die
by turns.

He was ripe
and fell to the ground
from a bough
out where the wind
is free
of the branches


David Ignatow’s “Three in Transition” is a sharp focus on mortality – mortality of the body, of presence, of ideas, of the grit of living. All things do come to an end. But, the poet says, we find a place where “the wind / is free / of the branches”. The closing image is ripe with inevitability.

David-IgnatowMaybe the focus of life should be more than transient accomplishment or the gathering things – and here I’m reminded of Shelley’s “long and levels sands,” moving away from us. Instead, we need to be part of the process – Mary Oliver’s notion of doing more than “simply having visited this world”. To understand, to lie in a field, to absorb the stars – their heat and light and silent motion. We breathe and die “by turns,” Ignatow writes. Things continue; leaves appear, leaves fall. What’s the beauty? Who will remember this moment of us in it? Who will read our words, listen to our voices, watch us walk the edge of the hill? Ignatow gives no answer. The question is what’s important.

In the end there is a freedom. We do fall, like the leaf, into an immeasurable unknown. I know we all have ideas, beliefs, fears, hopes… some unlimited, some oblivious, stone, murky, unbelievable, but in the end, truth is discovery. The poem’s closing shows us that when we fall, as we must, we become part of “the wind” – without boundaries. Ignatow is careful not to diminish the universality. The tree cannot hold us; the branches cannot limit us. Note that he uses no closing punctuation. We move, and move, and

~ by samofthetenthousandthings on January 27, 2016.

One Response to “David Ignatow, “Three in Transition” … the hum of spiders…”

  1. […] about death when he says “as we go” but when I first heard those words (before reading a commentary about the poem), I interpreted them to be, “as we go” …about our lives, “as we”… be who […]

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