When I was still a Catholic, the sense of anticipation ofPalm Sunday rendered mute and useless the jockeying for space in the pews for once-a-year worshipers fighting over the consecrated fronds. For Wallace Stevens, the palm stood for the mystery of the fictive muse, as his last published poem “Of Mere Being” shows.
The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze decor,
A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.
The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.