Carpets

by Anne Simpson

copyright ©2003 Anne Simpson

Night was woven through with what we said,
a Persian rug, patterned with random stars.
We sat on the windowsill of a ruined
farmhouse, all of us quiet after talking.
Weeds lay tangled below, a great square
of something intricate, unknown,
and I thought how it could be caught
by four corners: a carpet lifted
into the dark, undulating up and up.
I might have been pulled into the blue-black,
too high, too far, but something called me

back. Yesterday, kayaking, I recalled it
near a silver stretch where herons gather
at low tide. Just beyond,
water runs deeper, faster, the eel grass
slowly brushed this way and that, farther
down. We’d paddled back the wrong way,
though I liked the shallows and then
the cool green deeps. There, before us, birds
ascended as if drawing something
with them, the sheen of water, a wavering
transparency. We could see the slant
of fields, scattered houses and barns,
orange buoys comically bobbing,
and currents opening to reveal,
lower down, many liquid stairways.

Notes on the Poem

There is much to relish in Anne Simpson's radiant poem "Carpets" from her 2004 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection "Loop". It's made even more beautiful by the deliciousness of just a hint of peril amid the splendour. Who hasn't dreamt at one time or another of a magic carpet ride? Aren't those dreams usually enthralling, unspooling the world below with such brilliance ... that you forget to be afraid that you're up in the stratosphere? Simpson interjects something very mortal with "too high, too far" and then adds a thrilling jolt with the unusual break between "called me" and "back". That break is like the singular leap from the pit of your stomach to your throat that a breathtaking rollercoaster ride produces, and it promptly returns you from dreaminess to reality. How gratifying then to discover that the real world - an idyllic kayaking experience - is just as beautiful as the fanciful carpet ride, culminating in the alluring gorgeousness of "many liquid stairways".

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