Library Land was published in 2008. At that time the author, Jane Graham George, lived and worked in Minnesota, her job a reference librarian at the Dakota County Public Library in Eagan. Not unlike the stacks and shelves among which the author moved during her workday, the poems hold a lot of variety in small compass, from swine judging to the Book of Kells. Shortly after the book’s publication, the author changed residence, moving with husband and horse to the Kapiti Coast, northwest of Wellington, New Zealand. Here’s the opening poem:
Houses vault up like medieval cathedrals
on land where once there were pastures,
oaks, raspberries, space for long walks.
Chevron-winged killdeer heralded the chaos
of buying and selling, backhoes and downed trees.
Today through the picture window of the largest home,
I imagine the heavy Belgian who used to pull a plow
in the sorghum and sweet corn right here in the 60s,
flying now over a white leather sofa, a dream version
of himself, chestnut Pegasus in slow motion.
Floor lamps and tables shatter behind his mane,
plate glass shards strike me as if they were the myrrh
of a priest’s censer, the house made transparent,
drafty and strangely like its own aspirations, Chartres
and St. Michel, the haunt of angels or ghosts.
Not of that faith, the Belgian and I stand outside,
bound as in the days of chivalry and before,
where we do no harm, are pure in friendship
and the knowledge we haven’t yet lost all ground
and live still in the green time of the world.
I’ve always admired the way the glass of the suburban window gets shattered by the poet’s vision. It’s not justice, exactly, but an elegiac acknowledgment of the overtaking sprawl of growing populations that overwrites most any pastoral or wild landscape. And I value the poet’s stance, almost optimistic, certainly fierce, when she states that “we haven’t yet lost all ground / and live still in the green time of the world.”