May 1, 2013KR OnlinePoetry

All Or None

From The Kenyon Review, Spring 1951, Vol. XIII, No. 2

Each year, just as the blossoms
Fall, and the buds curl from the boughs,
I hear from the sky a wondering voice:
The brass bird that drowses
All year on the turning house
Has felt in his veins, once more, a green
Start: a shudder of awe
Runs through him—the new life
That comes, in the spring, to everything but our lives.

From their setting of eggshells, the nestlings
Call fiercely up to a sky
That rains, like the hours, blessings
Into their straining bills: to live, to die.
All or none: it is all one.
“The real sun

Is the eye of the beholder,”
Says the beholder, turning the page
That will someday be turned by the wind;
“Each year I am a year older
And the people in the street are a year younger.”
The world is always the same age.

Randall Jarrell was a poet, critic, and literary essayist. From 1937 to 1939 he taught at Kenyon College, where he met John Crowe Ransom and Robert Lowell.