A Charm

I have a twin who bears my name;
Bears it about with him in shame;

Who goes a way I would not go;
Has knowledge of things I would not know;

When I was brave he was afraid;
He told the truth, I lied;

What’s sweet to me tastes bitter to him;
My friends, my friends, he doesn’t love them;

I walk the daylight in his dream;
He breathes the air of my nightmare.

–David Ferry

This is a season of shadows. Fall arrives and the sun begins angling its light, deepening the dark silhouettes of the trees along my road. Shorter days. Putting away the white summer clothes and donning the protection of winter black.

A heightened contrast of light and dark is also apparent on a metaphoric level in our culture at large–the recent high stakes meltdown of the financial markets, the struggle of poverty that coexists with chokingly excessive wealth, the deep divide between our current presidential options and the implications that these two choices mean for our world’s future.

This poem haunts. It haunts because Ferry doesn’t let any of us wrangle our way out of owning our own personal dark energy, our very own, custom-made shadow. And that burden feels particularly heavy at a time when so much is at stake on every level. Why are elections held in November, right at the cusp of the long and bleak winter season? Would the outcome be different if it we held the vote in the spring or summer? The mantra going forward: Bundle up.

David Ferry has been a poetry mentor for several of my friends while they were enrolled in the masters program in creative writing at BU. They still speak about him with a deep reverence.

In addition to his own poetry, Ferry has done a number of translations including a well received rendering of Gilgamesh. The poet W. S. Merwin has described Ferry’s work as having an “assured quiet tone” that communicates “complexities of feeling with unfailing proportion and grace.”