For weeks he’s tunneled his intricate need Through the root-rich, fibrous, humoral dark, Buckling up in zagged illegibles The cuneiforms and cursives of a blind scribe. Sleeved by soft earth, a slow reach knuckling, Small tributaries open from his nudge— Mild immigrant, bland isolationist, Berm builder edging the runneling world. But now the snow, and he’s gone quietly deep, Nuzzling through a muzzy neighborhood Of dead-end-street, abandoned cul-de-sac, And boltrun from a dead-leaf, roundhouse burrow. May he emerge four months from this as before, Myopic master of the possible, Wise one who understands prudential ground, Revisionist of all things green; So when he surfaces, lumplike, bashful, Quizzical as the flashbulb blind who wait For color to return, he’ll nose our green- rich air with the imperative poise of now.
First published in New Criterion. Copyright © 2006 Wyatt Prunty.
I love what Wyatt Prunty does with the mole in this poem. When was the last time you thought of the “intricate need” of a mole? Prunty uses sophisticated vocabulary such as “humoral,” and “cuneiforms” to focus on the very specificity of this mole as we reach into the back corridors of our word-hoards. If you can read this out loud or in your mind’s voice, notice the fantastic sound-effects: “zagged illegibles,” and “berm builder” and “nuzzling through a muzzy neighborhood” and “Myopic master”. This mole is a blind scribe, a builder, and he has political opinions: an immigrant, he’s also an isolationist. Wise, prudent, bashful and quizzical, he has the “imperative poise of now”.
And we have a new way of looking at a mole! This mole seems like an elderly Frostian New England observer: slow to speak, slow to move, and slow to write but always deliberate. Both Prunty and the mole build bridges between our limitations and our capacities to look once again, with new vision, at something we’ve passed without thought in the past.
Prunty is such a great poet! He’s always dancing with the dictionary; seeing with the microscopic and kaleidoscopic eyes of a visionary.