Home > Poetry > The Sublime
Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
The Sublime

We’d read about the trees, they were
in a book or it was Jeanette or the man
who went on about the superficiality
of America and German women sweeping
their steps while we smiled and tried
to drink our beer. We left our attic room
and drove by broken farms, houses attached
to barns, the smell of horses and flies coming
through the door, crumbling spires, and perfectly
wound bales of hay drying in fields we’d
never know when we looked up through
the windshield, the branches spreading
overhead, two lines on either side,
they were lindens or birches,
the chestnuts had already bloomed.
Friedrich was right. In “Chalk Cliffs on Rügen”
a woman and two men come to look
at the Baltic and take in the Königstuhl.
She blends into water, the men
into woods, and in the distance
two strokes for sails, a light brush for waves
framed by leaves and soft white formations.
None of this matters. Always someone
is losing his glasses, someone bends
to help him. Even the man leaning against
the tree won’t stay with the others complaining,
the branch in his way, his pockets full
of receipts and a button that needs
repair. We drove under a green
and flickering sky. There was no place
to park the car. We had to look away.

Joelle Biele is the author of White Summer, winner of the Crab Orchard Review First Book Award. A Fulbright scholar, she has received awards from the Poetry Society of America and the Maryland State Arts Council and has taught American literature and creative writing at Goucher College, the University of Maryland, and the University of Oldenburg, Germany. (updated 11/2007)

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