AR Ammons – Still

“though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe”
AR Ammons

AR Ammons’ poem Still follows a resolution of a spiritual nature to ground oneself and to identify with the lowly rather than the grandiose. It’s a call to commune with what is most basic and elemental, but the poet declares his search for lowliness itself to be frustrated by a godliness innate in everything. ‘Everything is magnificent with existence,’ writes AR (Archie) Ammons, the American poet who began another of his poems, Play, with the line ‘Nothing’s going to become of anyone except death’. The sentiment here is one of wonder in the face of a world defined by magnificent existence.



I said I will find what is lowly
     and put the roots of my identity
     down there:
each day I’ll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
     a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
     I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
     I can find nothing
     to give myself to:
     everything is

magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
     ah, underneath,
     a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
     I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
     below the brown exterior
     green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up
and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
     I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
     though I have looked everywhere
     I can find nothing lowly
     in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:
     at one sudden point came still,
     stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
     with being!

AR Ammons
From: The Selected Poems

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