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Remembering John Updike

The poem Nicholas Delbanco read during Tuesday’s program first appeared in the June 1999 issue of Poetry, and later, in a slightly different form in 2001, in ‘Americana’.

From “Americana,” as read on Tuesday’s NewsHour:

A Rescue

Today I wrote some words that will see print.
Maybe they will last “forever,” in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird—a goldfinch?—
that had flown into the garden shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings on the deceptive light
of the dusty, warped-shut window.

Without much reflection, for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy soft hands
pinned it against a pane,
held loosely cupped
this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball,
to all that lovely perishing outdoors.

The version published in Poetry:

A Rescue

I wrote some words today that will see print.
Maybe they will last “forever”—
that is, more than ten years, in that
someone will read them, their ink making
a light scratch on his mind, or hers.
I think back with greater satisfaction
upon a yellow bird — a goldfinch?—
that had flown into our potting shed
and could not get out,
battering its wings unintelligently
upon the dusty panes of the never-opened windows.
Without much reflection, for once, I stepped
to where its panicked heart
was making commotion, the flared wings drumming,
and with clumsy, soft hands
pinned it against a pane,
held cupped this agitated essence of the air,
and through the open door released it,
like a self-flung ball
to all that lovely perishing outdoors.

More about John Updike and his poems can be found at the Poetry Foundation’s Web site. Indeed, that site’s most popular poem is Updike’s ‘Ex-Basketball Player.’

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