Dawn’s Curtain

Folds of a fading saltmarsh mallow draped across the morning sky


Now in the blessed days of more and less
when the news about time is that each day
there is less of it I know none of that
as I walk out through the early garden
only the day and I are here with no
before or after and the dew looks up
without a number or a present age
                                                   “Dew Light” ~ W.S.Merwin


Comments always are welcome. Click here for more information about the saltmarsh mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica).


36 thoughts on “Dawn’s Curtain

  1. The ending of the Merwin recalls this stanza by French poet Francis Jammes:

    On a baptisé les étoiles sans penser
    qu’elles n’avaient pas besoin de nom, et les nombres,
    qui prouvent que les belles comètes dans l’ombre
    passeront, ne les forceront pas à passer.

    We’ve baptized the stars without thinking
    That they don’t need a name, and numbers,
    Which prove that lovely comets will pass on
    Into the shadows, won’t make them pass on.

    1. The thought fits perfectly, and the way the poet structured it is remarkable.

      Jammes wasn’t familiar to me, so I enjoyed this Poetry Foundation piece. The stanza you quoted certainly supports their concluding lines: “Critics have often wondered how such a simple writer became a major French literary force. In many ways, Jammes’s simplicity appears to be his biggest contribution.”

        1. What a simple, powerful, and breath-taking poem. It perfectly evokes that experience I suppose most of us have had of being asked, “What’s wrong?” and then answering, “Nothing.” Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Linda, I love the sentiment in the poem, along with the image…

    But what struck me most was that the poet wasn’t from our neck of the woods because, he couldn’t have said “only the day and I are here,” as any trip thru the garden now is in a cloud of mosquitoes…

    1. You’re so funny, Gary — and exactly right. Those critters are a misery, and their numbers certainly aren’t decreasing.

      I very much like the poem myself. Merwin sounds as though he’s joining you in a Coffee Muse — a nice, slow start to the day, surrounded by beauty.

  3. I had to Google this thing because I’d never seen a saltmarsh mallow before. Interesting shot — and I can’t help but be glad for you to have finally received such a gorgeous blue sky!! We’ve been way up in the 80s far too long now — no wonder our trees aren’t showing fall colors yet.

    1. When that blue sky finally appeared, rejoicing was heard in the land. Now, all people can talk about is the possibility of a cold front arriving — at last. Even with another tropical system forming, the usual comment is, “Right. But if it goes east, we’ll get the dry side and the humidity will go down.” We’ve all had enough of summer — just like you.

      The mallows are beautiful flowers. I like to try my hand at abstraction from time to time, but I’ll be showing this one in a more typical way, too. This was a good year for them because of all the rain. They don’t mind standing around in a ditch with wet feet!

  4. At first glance I really did think I was looking at something other than a fading flower. It surely is a unique view of a flower that has seen much better days. This is very interesting perspective.

    1. What’s really unusual about this photo is that I’d “pulled a Gingold” and gotten myself out at dawn to see what I could see. When I found a patch of these declining flowers all covered in dew, I couldn’t resist them. It really was a banner morning, since I found a pair of ladybugs eating aphids, and one little pokeweed branch. As you know, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

        1. I’m living the Gingold life in another way just now.A friend and I came over to East Texas for a couple of days, and are staying in a forest cabin. It’s a whole other world, and only about four hours from home. Unfortunately, it’s been rainy and cloudy most of the time, which makes the task of figuring out how to take photos in the woods ever a little more complex, but I’m having great fun — even wtih no sunrise or sunset to watch. Down here along the creek, with towering trees overhead, there’s not nearly as much sky to watch, either.

    1. Merwin’s an interesting person as well as being a fine poet. He lives in Hawaii, dotes on his palm trees, and is deeply concerned with the well-being of the natural world. Not all of his poems are concerned with nature, but many are, and I find them appealing.

      Every now and then I find something that I think ‘shows’ better as an abstraction — I’m glad you enjoyed this one.

  5. I like the poem very much and read it a number of times to savour the simplicity. We only have the ‘now’, at the end “and the dew looks up
    without a number or a present age” really is so lovely and true.

    1. I decamped from home, landed in a relatively remote spot, and have been a little short on internet connectivity, even though there’s been a good bit of simple beauty to enjoy for a couple of days. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking about your opera house, and how Merwin’s poem is at the other end of whatever continuum that is.

    1. I’m not at home right now and I’m terribly awkward at copying and pasting on this silly ipad. There’s a youtube interview with Merwin at his home that’s just wonderful. I’lll see if I can find it and link it for you here.

    1. I enjoy abstraction, but rarely come up with one that seems “just right.” This one really appealed to me, and it pleases me that it reminded you of O’Keeffe. Beyond that, it reminds me of the sheer curtains in my grandparents’ back bedroom. I still remember watching them stir on those hot afternoons when it was time for my nap.

    1. I hear rumors of a front, but I’ll believe it when it’s knocking at the door. Currently, my camera and I are exploring the piney woods — also damp and rainy, but incredibly interesting. Fungus! Spiders! Unfamiliar plants and trees! Midnight visitors thumping around the cabin, and the thrill maneuvering up wet dirt roads without getting stuck! With luck, there will be sunshine today, and then home tomorrow. It’s amazing that things can be so different only hours away.

      1. Cabin! Unexpected guests! Nothing like red dirt and pine forests – it is a whole different world – like the natives say, if you don’t like the landscape, climate, or plants where you are in TX, get in the car a drive a couple of miles and it’ll be all different.
        Enjoy the adventure!
        (Red sky this morning…time to go surfing HAHA)

  6. I found several marsh mallows along my trail this summer, Linda. Always an interesting flower. And fall has arrived. I was up at six this morning and it was dark. Winter is on its way. It’s good to be at home here in Oregon. The colors of fall are taking over and the skies are free of forest fire smoke. We’ve even had a touch of rain. –Curt

    1. I’m back from three days in deep east Texas — a whole other world, in many ways. When the “clunk-bump-scurry” came through in the middle of the first night, I thought of you and your bears. I’m pretty sure I had an armadillo come to visit, but I didn’t bother to check.

      Did you know that the marsh mallow was the initial source of the marshmallow we use in s’mores and hot chocolate? When I first learned that, I went looking and sure enough–there are recipes for making marshmallows from the marsh mallow. It’s not on my to-do list, but it’s good to know.

      I’ll bet it feels good to be home. We finally had our first front of the season roll through yesterday, and it’s glorious. We’ll have a few days of 80/60, and then a reinforcing front. Everything’s still green, but we’ve had so much rain that a nice, hard frost might give us some color this year.

      1. Things that go bump in the night are sure to get your attention. Even for a veteran of the woods like me! A loud, cracking limb is likely something big and heavy. That happened once on my trip.

        I did know about the origin of our edible marsh mallows. The name of the plant alone guaranteed that I would go search of an explanation years ago when I first came across it. (Before the Internet!)

        Yes, it does feel good to be home, Linda. We are having beautiful, smoke-free, fall weather. And we had our first frost, yesterday. I am keeping and eye of the trees so I can do my annual fall post. –Curt

  7. We’ll see if “pulled a Gingold” enters the WP vernacular. In my heart of hearts, I’m horrified by pre-lunch, much less pre-dawn, but don’t tell anyone, they’ll put me down as a degenerate slacker. I’m just coded to love late nights.
    It’s a lovely poem & that slightly glittery, crepe-y texture is pretty neat, too. It could be a fashion shot – – the train of a fancy gown.
    The time period for me, when time isn’t passing, is post-midnight, when the usual tick-tick-tick of reminders, tasks, compiling lists, and everyday preoccupations grind to a halt, and I can actually think about something.

    1. It’s funny how we can change over the years. I used to be a night-owl, but those days ended when I started my business and began working outdoors for eight or ten hours a day. After a while, I fell into the routine of early to bed, early to rise, and the pattern took hold. Given that reality, it’s nice to have my work hours as my best thinking hours. Eight or ten hours of mostly uninterrupted solitude can be pretty nice, especially when the weather is pleasant.

      Before that photo of the dewy, fading flower became dawn’s curtain, it was part of Dawn’s dress — or Daphne’s, or Delilah’s, for that matter. I really like the texture. It reminds me of my fairy princess Halloween costume when I was a kid.

    1. It was one of “those” trips — three days of rain or cloud, or rain and heavier cloud. No matter — it was an interesting time. I certainly gained a new appreciation for your trail photos. I ended up tossing about 3/4 of the photos I took; they were way too dark, or out of focus. Before I go back, I’m going to find what passes for woods around here and spend a couple of dark days honing my technique!

      Our first front of the season finally rolled through, though. It’s beautiful now — low humidity, and the promise of a reinforcing front on the weekend. No snow for us, but low humidity and highs in the 790s will do just fine.

    1. Sometimes I like to try seeing things in a different way — so when I got nice soft light, dew, and a pretty pink flower, I just couldn’t resist. I’m quite fond of the poem, too. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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