Theodore Roethke isn’t the best poet America has produced and he certainly isn’t the most famous.  But he wrote some wonderfully evocative poems which resonate deeply for me.

My favorite poem of his is called “I Knew a Woman”.  The words dance around the playful imagery.  It’s rather striking in it’s lustiness.   It’s funny too!   I love the immediacy of the language:   “lovely in her bones”, he writes.   This is a woman with beauty beyond the skin-deep version.

I am not a member of the Society of English Majors like Garrison Keillor,  and I’ll leave the detailed literary analysis to them.   Take a few minutes to read this poem.  You’ll find that even without a SEM member around to help, it’s not all that challenging to parse, and it’s really lovely.

I Knew a Woman – Theodore Roethke

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them;
Ah, when she moved, she moved more ways than one:
The shapes a bright container can contain!
Of her choice virtues only gods should speak,
Or English poets who grew up on Greek
(I’d have them sing in chorus, cheek to cheek.)

How well her wishes went! She stroked my chin,
She taught me Turn, and Counter-turn, and stand;
She taught me Touch, that undulant white skin:
I nibbled meekly from her proffered hand;
She was the sickle; I, poor I, the rake,
Coming behind her for her pretty sake
(But what prodigious mowing did we make.)

Love likes a gander, and adores a goose:
Her full lips pursed, the errant note to seize;
She played it quick, she played it light and loose;
My eyes, they dazzled at her flowing knees;
Her several parts could keep a pure repose,
Or one hip quiver with a mobile nose
(She moved in circles, and those circles moved.)

Let seed be grass, and grass turn into hay:
I’m martyr to a motion not my own;
What’s freedom for? To know eternity.
I swear she cast a shadow white as stone.
But who would count eternity in days?
These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways.)

Categories: Poetry

One Response so far.

  1. Michael says:

    Thanks. I’d never read it before, and I see what you mean.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Popular Posts

I’ll have what she’s having…

Faithful readers of this blog will note that I haven't reported any lunches for a few weeks.  The problem is that I have been frustrated by my new camera.  The ...

Seoul Food – Home style!

After all of the Korean food I've been talking about in my My Thursday Lunch blog, my lovely wife D decided to buy me a Korean cookbook. Yesterday was ...

Cheese of the Week: Port Salut…or...

-I was just giving you the port salute. -I didn't give you the port authority to do it. -Quick! Submerge it in the port. -Good. Now it's a portfolio. -Th-th-there's a girl in ...

A foggy day in LA

Quite a foggy morning we're having in LA. This looks more like a scene from Dark Shadows than UCLA's iconic Royce Hall.

Cheese of the Week: Blazzo Provolone Smoked

This week's Cheese of the Week is a lovely smoked provolone. The level of smokiness is wonderful; it plays with you, it teases you, but it never overwhelms you. ...