Ballad


I want to know the unity in all things and the difference
between one thing and another
      I said to the willow
and asked what it wanted to know: the willow said it
wanted to know how to get rid of the wateroak
that was throwing it into shade every afternoon at 4 o'clock:
            that is a real problem I said I suppose
and the willow, once started, went right on saying
I can't take you for a friend because while you must
be interested in willowness, which you could find nowhere
      better than right here,
            I'll bet you're just as interested in wateroakness
which you can find in a pure form right over there,
a pure form of evil and death to me:
I know I said I want to be friends with you both but the
willow sloughed into a deep grief
and said
if you could just tie back some of those oak branches
until I can get a little closer to mastering that domain
of space up there–see it? how empty it is
and how full of light
            why I said don't I ask the wateroak if he would mind
withholding himself until you're more nearly even: after
all I said you are both trees and you both need water and
light and space to unfold into, surely the wateroak will
understand that commonness:
      not so you could tell it, said the willow:
            that I said is cynical and uncooperative: what could
you give the wateroak in return for his withholding:
what could I give him said the willow, nothing
that he hasn't already taken:
      well, I said, but does he know about the unity in
all things, does he understand that all things have a
common source and end: if he could be made
to see that rather deeply, don't you think he might
            give you a little way:
      no said the willow he'd be afraid I would take all:
would you I said:
or would you, should the need come, give him a little way
back:
            I would said the willow but my need is greater than
his
and the trade would not be fair:
maybe not I said but let's approach him with our powerful
concept that all things are in all
      and see if he will be moved


A.R. Ammons, Diversifications, W.W. Norton, 1975.