Poetry Friday: How Many Greens Can One Day Hold?

According to Marcel Gleiser, Carlo Rovelli’s Reality is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravitiy “is a gem. It’s a pleasure to read, full of wonderful analogies and imagery and, last but not least, a celebration of the human spirit, in ‘permanent doubt, the deep source of science.’” What it is not, however, is a beach read. (Krista Tippett’s interview with Rovelli here is worth listening to.) That didn’t stop me from picking it up at the library a few weeks ago. While some of the science confused me, the poetry of Rovelli’s prose was immediately apparent. I decided right away that this book was perfect for the “Collaborative Cut-Up” exercise, shared by Anne Waldman in The Practice of Poetry, that my critique group partner, Margaret Simon, shared on her blog last week.

Rovelli’s text definitely “utilize[s] a vocabulary not [my] own.” Less apparent was what lines of my own I would “intercut” them with. Then, as I sat on my porch one afternoon, the answer was obvious. My yard and the woods and fields around it are a riot of green at this time of year, and I asked the question out loud. Lucy, my trusty beagle, looked up at me, but had no reply.

How Many Greens Can One Day Hold?

How many greens can one day hold?
I’m not sure.

As many greens as blades of grass, lit by sun-
light falling on a surface like a gentle hail shower?
Or ferns, reaching toward the sky, forming
small diaphanous clouds
of vibrant, growing green.

Nothing stays still.
Glossy green treetops
tremble like the surface of the sea.

Step into the unknown,
where coolness hides.
The truth is in the depths
of shadowy green pines.

Fireflies’ neon green signals
speak with the voice of nature,
blink on and off, whisper goodnight,
accept living immersed in mystery.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017 (italicized lines by Carol Rovelli and translators Simon Carnell and Erica Segre)

If quantum gravity isn’t a topic you’re anxious to learn more about, this book isn’t a good choice. But in the last chapter, “Mystery,” Rovelli asks some serious questions about the nature of knowledge and what we can know with certainty. He states “to seek to look further, to go further, seems to me to be one of the splendid things that gives sense to life.” Splendid, indeed.

Photo by Aaron Burden via Unsplash.com

Please be sure to visit Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

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11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: How Many Greens Can One Day Hold?

  1. Catherine, this line strikes me as one that I need to ponder, “to seek to look further, to go further, seems to me to be one of the splendid things that gives sense to life.” Today on Spiritual Journey first Thursday we were writing about going beyond the comfort zone. The quote you shared aligns itself to this journey although the route is often difficult. Your exercise that ended in a poem seems to be an interesting one. I especially liked the last stanza.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully done, Catherine. I love the stanza that begins “Step into the unknown,”. Sometimes deep woods holds those shadowy mysteries that are so intriguing. You must have a lovely view. My daughter reads about physics topics often. I’ll share this book with her. There is a fun side to this ‘green’ question for me. I had the cabinets in my former home painted green, and after that had to carry a piece of wood with the color because “there are so many greens”!

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  3. I was just pondering those many shades of green yesterday. Your poem is beautiful, Catherine. My favorite stanza:
    Step into the unknown,
    where coolness hides.
    The truth is in the depths
    of shadowy green pines.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So many greens, Catherine! Thank you for sharing your poem and what you got out of your reading experience. One year I chose “Mystery” for my OLW… your post reminds me of how important I feel that is to my life. Dwell in mystery. xo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have certainly looked further in your poem. The different lines meld together so smoothly. Lovely! How many greens? My yard is full of them. (New Mexico is brown. I do prefer our greens.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your title made me think immediately of a coloring exercise I gave my first graders once – on St. Patrick’s Day, of course! I told them they needed to draw a picture with crayon, but only crayons that had the word green on the side of the crayon. So blue-green, lime green, green-blue, apple green, etc. could be used in their picture and it needed to be filled from top to bottom. I got glorious green pictures in every shade imaginable.
    I absolutely love this poem made of two voices as one. I can’t tell you a line I like best – they blend so beautifully!

    Liked by 1 person

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