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The Spiral

--From Writing Poetry (Boston: The Writer, Inc., 1960) 47-50

Finally, here is a shortened version from my notebook of the making of a poem. In a friend's house I was shown a collection of hundreds of varieties of one kind of sea-shell; and an album of all the varieties of sea-weed from one (Irish) coastline; and briefly some enlarged photographs of a sea-shell cut across to show the spiralling outward growth. I carried the sound of the first line and a half in my head till I got home. The drafts, or gropings, are printed first; the completed or acceptable stanzas follow:

I. DRAFT
The infinite orderliness of the natural world
Is past all wonder. Only the ignorant wonder
And marvel, seeing the never-repeated curled
And colored and faithful patterns out of the

Seeing the never-repeated colored and curled

Seeing the colored and never-repeated curled
Slow growth of sea-shells. But find the founder

Only I ignorant wonder

COMPLETED STANZA

The infinite orderliness of the natural world
Is past all wonder. Only I ignorant wonder
At the common and colored and never-repeated curled
Slow growth of shells above the sea and under.

II. DRAFT

Seaweed is a green jungle of scum an inch wide

A scum of seaweed is a jungle a green inch wide,
A lifetime long, an age, if naming, caring
Maps it upon one page where spread and dried

A man's lifetime long for seeing, naming, caring
To map it on one page where spread and dried

To map it on one page. Spread there and dried
It is one pattern for the mind's comparing

With mind
With Mind

COMPLETED STANZA

A scum of seaweed is a jungle a green inch wide,
A man's lifetime long for seeing, naming, caring
To map it on one page. Spread there and dried,
It is one pattern for the mind's comparing

III. DRAFT

With Mind that remembers everything It made.
The government of water, like the art of teaching

humility
no pronoun ------- microscope

birds

reaching searching arching marching

the government of water

greater

great calm of knowing law obeyed

Caverns of almost nothing, and heavens, discover
Alike a little of the great calm of law obeyed
As sun casts the year's same shadow over and over.

mover over
sever forever
cover

COMPLETED STANZA

With Mind that remembers everything It made.
Caverns of almost nothing, and heavens, discover
Alike a little of the great calm of law obeyed.
Sun casts the year's same shadow over and over.

IV. DRAFT

Out of shadow I, but no longer saying I,
Move myself from my self in an opening spiral
Toward what I speak of without knowing why

Toward what this poem speaks of, not

Toward what these words hope

Out slowly, outward, and must but may never die

To complete one cell of

The Spiral
title it

COMPLETED STANZA

Out of shadow I, but no longer saying I,
Move myself from my self in an opening spiral,
Drawn toward the light in understanding why
One cell may be one cell yet see the spiral

V. DRAFT

Whole, after slow accretion shaped the whole.

Whole, and what accretion shaped the whole,

But there is more, a world in a tall fountain's
One waterdrop, and more, the fire in coal

more, fire in a crumb of coal,

COMPLETED STANZA

Whole, and what slow accretion shaped the whole.
But there is more, a world in a tall fountain's
One waterdrop, more, fire in a crumb of coal,
And more worlds in the grains that make mountains.

 

           
   
   
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