Donald Justice

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 The Snowfall

The classic landscapes of dreams are not
More pathless, though footprints leading nowhere
Would seem to prove that a people once
Survived for a little even here.

Fragments of a pathetic culture
Remain, the lost mittens of children,
And a single, bright, detasseled snow cap,
Evidence of some frantic migration.

The landmarks are gone. Nevertheless
There is something familiar about this country.
Slowly now we begin to recall

The terrible whispers of our elders
Falling softly about our ears
In childhood, never believed till now.

Villanelle at Sundown

Turn your head. Look. The light is turning yellow.

The river seems enriched thereby, not to say deepened.

Why this is, I'll never be able to tell you.
Or are Americans half in love with failure?

One used to say so, reading Fitzgerald, as it happened.

(That Viking Portable, all water spotted and yellow--
remember?) Or does mere distance lend a value

to things? --false, it may be, but the view is hardly cheapened.

Why this is, I'll never be able to tell you.
The smoke, those tiny cars, the whole urban milieu--

One can like anything diminishment has sharpened.

Our painter friend, Lang, might show the whole thing yellow
and not be much off. It's nuance that counts, not color--

As in some late James novel, saved up for the long weekend

and vivid with all the Master simply won't tell you.
How frail our generation has got, how sallow

and pinched with just surviving! We all go off the deep end

finally, gold beaten thinly out to yellow.

And why this is, I'll never be able to tell you.

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