Saturday, April 08, 2006

RIP Leslie Norris (1920-2006)

World-renowned poet Leslie Norris, a native of Wales who most recently served as BYU's Emeritus Poet-in-Residence, died Thursday, April 6. As a teenager, he pedaled his bicycle to a nearby town where a group of poets read their works in a room above a bookstore. Among the poets was a young Dylan Thomas. Decades later, Norris read poetry at the unveiling of Thomas' memorial stone in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abby.

Leslie Norris was a great man, a great poet and writer of stories, a great teacher. I loved him, and I shall miss him.


Thr border I knew best was halfway over
the bridge between the town and Breconshire.
the river's neutral water
moved on
to other boundaries.

I walked the bridge each Saturday, stopped
at a guess measure,
lived a moment in adventurous limbo.
Did I stand on air then, invisibly taken to some unknown
world, some nowhere?
Where was I then? I was whole
but felt an unseen line
divide me, send my strong half forward
keep my other timidly at home.
I have always lived that way,
crossed borders resolutely
while looking over my shoulder.

Not long ago
driving in America
in high cold desert country below the Rockies,
I saw at the roadside
parked on an acre open as the moon,
a ring of shabby cars
old Chevvies and Caddies,
some prosperous trucks.
The Indians were showing on folding tables
their ceremonial silver, heavy necklaces, rich
with turquoise and hammered squash-blossom,
oval silver bangles.

Navajo and Zuni.
old tribes, hardy and skilled.
They stood behind their work in the flat wind,
not smiling.
I love the things they make,
haggled for a buckle for my belt,
silver, a design
rayed like the cold sun,
and, walking away, saw
cut into the concrete
the meeting place of four states.
Crouched there, I placed a foot in Utah,
a foot in Arizona, my palms flat in the dust
of Colorado and New Mexico.

Restless as dust, scattered

A man I knew, my old friend,
moved out as I did, but returned,
followed his eyes and crossed the borders
into his own country. When he left,
it was to see his place from a distance
and peacefully go home. The world grew small
for him, to one country, a city, a house.

His mother, calmly and nobly dying,
asked on her last day for champagne
which she had never tasted. She wet her lips,
and in the evening called into her room
someone unseen. 'Who would have thought it,'
she said, very clearly, and crossed the border
for which all others are a preparation.

And Sally Taylor, her mother dying in the next room,
heard women's voices, young and laughing,
come in to fetch the old lady.

Border, boundary, threshold, door --
Orpheus moved either way, the living and the dead
were parted by a thin reflection
he simply walked through. But who can follow?

For all boundaries I have crossed over, flown over,
knowingly, unknowingly, I have no answers;
but sit in the afternoon sun, under mountains
where stale snow clings in shadowy patches,
remember my friend, how he had sung,
hope he is still singing.

No comments: