Poetry Friday: Olav Hauge

I’ve been investing time in my Pulitzer novel this week—remember that? Upton Sinclair and Dragon’s Teeth? well, if you don’t, never mind that; the blog’s leitmotif will return soon, is all you need know at present—and so this will be brief.  In keeping with that brevity, I turn to one of the best modern poets at getting something alive and enticing into a short verse, Norway’s Olav Hauge.  Here is his “Don’t Give Me the Whole Truth,” which appeared in a collection by that name in 1985:

“Don’t give me the whole truth,
don’t give me the sea for my thirst,
don’t give me the sky when I ask for light,
but give me a glint, a dewy wisp, a mote
as the birds bear water-drops from their bathing
and the wind a grain of salt.”

Hauge takes a strange tack in this poem, and one that, for that reason, intrigues and draws me in.  Unlike plenty of poems that are desperate for truth, Hauge—a little world-wearier, perhaps, a little wiser—asks for something short of revelation.  He just needs satisfaction, not excess; happiness, not ecstasy.  Not the ocean, but that grain of wind-borne salt.  Not a fortune, but the unexpected coin.  Not a forest, but the shade of a single slender tree.  Like a prayer, he offers it to us, like a whispered hope.  Do not ask for the whole world; just that corner of it where you can find a roof and a bed, a smile to return to and a simple meal on the table.  As winter gives way to spring, it sounds about right to me.


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