M is for the M in Ammons. Either of them.

I’ve been carrying around A.R. Ammons’ A Coast of Trees for upwards of two weeks now. It’s one of those well-timed books that found me right when I needed it. I’ve been spending a lot of time with this poem, “Swells.”


The very longest swell in the ocean, I suspect,
carries the deepest memory, the information of actions
summarized (surface peaks and dibbles and local sharp

slopes of windstorms) with a summary of the summaries
and under other summaries a deeper summary: well, maybe
deeper, longer for length here is the same as deep

time: so that the longest swell swells least; that
is, its effects in immediate events are least perceptible,
a pitch to white water rising say a millimeter more

because of an old invisible presence: and on the ocean
floor an average so vast occurs it moves in a noticeability
of a thousand years, every blip, though, of surface and

intermediacy moderated into account: I like to go
to old places where the effect dwells, summits or seas
so hard to summon into mind, even with the natural

ones hard to climb or weigh: I go there in my mind
(which is, after all, where these things negotiably are)
and tune in to the wave nearly beyond rise or fall in its

staying and hum the constant, universal assimilation: the
information, so packed, nearly silenced with majesty
and communicating hardly any action: go there and

rest from the ragged and rapid pulse, the immediate threat
shot up in a disintegrating spray, the many thoughts and
sights unmanageable, the deaths of so many, hungry or mad.

~ A.R. Ammons


4 thoughts on “M is for the M in Ammons. Either of them.

  1. Margaret, I just whizzed through about 27 pages of your blog. I read a lot as well, but your reading has me thoroughly impressed, and feeling a little competitive to be honest! I was wondering, do you write at all?

    • Thanks! I feel like you’re giving me some seriously high praise that I probably don’t quite deserve. I do read a lot, mostly because it’s my favorite thing.

      And I do write some. More and more, in fact. Another favorite thing. How about you?

      • I have a proposition for you. I write too, only seriously started doing so about a year ago, and I’m trying to improve on my work. How would you feel about exchanging email addresses and starting a fiction-workshop of sorts? Of course, if you don’t want to do so, that’s completely understandable, and you can let me know, with no hard feelings whatsoever.

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