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By A. R. Ammons

Honor a going thing, goldfinch, corporation, tree,

          morality: any working order,

       animate or inanimate: it

 

has managed directed balance,

          the incoming and outgoing energies are working right,

       some energy left to the mechanism,

 

some ash, enough energy held

          to maintain the order in repair,

       assure further consumption of entropy,

 

expending energy to strengthen order:

          honor the persisting reactor,

       the container of change, the moderator: the yellow

 

bird flashes black wing-bars

          in the new-leaving wild cherry bushes by the bay,

       startles the hawk with beauty,

 

flitting to a branch where

          flash vanishes into stillness,

       hawk addled by the sudden loss of sight:

 

honor the chemistries, platelets, hemoglobin kinetics,

          the light-sensitive iris, the enzymic intricacies

       of control,

 

the gastric transformations, seed

          dissolved to acrid liquors, synthesized into

       chirp, vitreous humor, knowledge,

 

blood compulsion, instinct: honor the

          unique genes,

       molecules that reproduce themselves, divide into

 

sets, the nucleic grain transmitted

          in slow change through ages of rising and falling form,

       some cells set aside for the special work, mind

 

or perception rising into orders of courtship,

          territorial rights, mind rising

       from the physical chemistries

 

to guarantee that genes will be exchanged, male

          and female met, the satisfactions cloaking a deeper

       racial satisfaction:

 

heat kept by a feathered skin:

          the living alembic, body heat maintained (bunsen

       burner under the flask)

 

so the chemistries can proceed, reaction rates

          interdependent, self-adjusting, with optimum

       efficiency—the vessel firm, the flame

 

staying: isolated, contained reactions! the precise and

          necessary worked out of random, reproducible,

       the handiwork redeemed from chance, while the

 

goldfinch, unconscious of the billion operations

          that stay its form, flashes, chirping (not a

       great songster) in the bay cherry bushes wild of leaf.


A. R. Ammons, “Mechanism” from Collected Poems: 1951-1971. Copyright © 1960 by A. R. Ammons. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Source: Collected Poems: 1951-1971 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1972)

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Poet Bio

A. R. Ammons
The wonderfully varied poetry of A. R. Ammons reflects his lifelong interest in science; landscapes, animals, biological processes, and even the weather typically provide the raw materials for his philosophical meditations. An heir of the American transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau, who sought in nature clues to an ultimate metaphysical reality, he also has affinities with Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. A self-deprecating, countrified humor marks both his short, personal lyrics and experimental longer poems. One longer poem, Tape for the Turn of the Year, was written entirely on adding-machine tape. See More By This Poet

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