I fell for Carruth’s poetry 30 years ago while sitting on the floor at a local bookstore, pouring over the shelves, looking for poems that would “give me a feeling.” When I read the long lines of his book, Tell Me Again How the White Heron Rises and Flies Across the Nacreous River at Twilight Toward the Distant Islands (1989), I admired the movement of his mind, his mysterious but down-to-earth images. I didn’t know a lot about poetry and said to myself: “I want to write like he does.” And I literally reproduced his poems in syntax and lineation—my nouns where his were, my verbs where his lived.
I read his “Testament” many years later. At 86, while contemplating his life and reinvigorating the previously stale idea of life as hourglass, he remarks: “I am almost entirely love, now.” That just grabbed me. It was not envy of him for seeing himself as made almost entirely of love. Such an affirmation! An aspiration! No, I was 100% puzzled and seduced by “almost entirely.” How could it be? Entire—as in complete, and almost—as in partial. Those two in endless orbit. My poems, never quite finished, finished by readers I never get to meet. My life, winding down, and filled with people and places I love, but also distant. My relationship with God—ever present and ever elusive.
Here is the opening poem from Almost Entirely:
Carruth, my first loved poet, said
in his “Testament”: Now I am
almost entirely love. He
imagined his ego’s heaviness
sifting through the hourglass’s narrowness
and settling on a gathering
cone of love below.
He didn’t know, then --
that when I lift his book from the shelf,
the love he has become spills
like galaxies in my hands.