Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Some November Poems

"The Way the Leaves Keep Falling"

It is November
and morning -- time to get to work.
I feel the little whip
of my conscience flick
as I stand at the window watching
the great harvest of leaves.
Across the street my neighbor,
his leaf blower already roaring,
tries to make order
from the chaos of fading color.
He seems brave and a bit foolish.
It is almost tidal, the way
the leaves keep falling
wave after wave to earth.

In Eden there were
no seasons, and sometimes
I think it was the tidiness
of that garden
Eve hated, all the wooden tags
with the new names of plants and trees.
Still, I am Adam's child too
and I like order, though
the margins of my poems
are ragged, and I stand here
all morning watching the leaves.

--Linda Pastan


"Design for November"

Let confusion be the design
and all my thoughts go,
swallowed by desire: recess
from promises in
the November of your arms.
Release from the rose: broken
reeds, strawpale,
through which, from easy
branches that mock the blood
a few leaves fall. There
the mind is cradled,
stripped also and returned
to the ground, a trivial
and momentary clatter. Sleep
and be brought down, and so
condone the world, eased of
the jagged sky and all
its petty imageries, flying
birds, its fogs and windy
phalanxes . . .

--William Carlos Williams


"Another November"

In the blue eye of the medievalist there is a cart in the road.
There are brushfires and hedgerows and smoke and smoke
and the sun gold dollop going down.

The light has been falling all afternoon and the rain off and on.
There is a picture of a painting in a book in which the surface
of the paper, like the membrane of the canvas,

is nothing if not a light falling from another source.
The harvest is finished and figure, ground, trees lined up against
the sky all look like furniture --

even the man pushing the cart that looks like a chair,
even the people propped up in the fields, gleaning, or watching
the man, waving his passage on.

Part of a cloud has washied in to clarify or confound.
It is that time of the day between work and supper when the body
would lie down, like bread, or is so much of a piece

with the whole it is wood for a fire. witness how
it is as difficult to paint rain as it is this light falling across
this page right now because there will always be

a plague of the luminous dead being wheeled to the edge of town.
The painting in the book is a landscape in a room, cart in the road,
someone's face at the window.

--Stanley Plumly


"Leonids Over Us"

The sky is streaked with them
burning hole in black space --
like fireworks, someone says
all friendly in the dark chill
of Newcomb Hollow in November,
friends known only by voices.

We lie on the cold sand and it
embraces us, this beach
where locals never go in summer
and boast of their absence. Now
we lie eyes open to the flowers
of white ice that blaze over us

and seem to imprint directly
on our brains. I feel the earth,
rolling beneath as we face out
into the endlessness we usually
ignore. Past the evanscent
meteors, infinity pulls hard.

--Marge Piercy


"After the Harvest"

Pulling the garden, I always think
of starving to death, of how it would be to get by
on what the hard frost left untouched
at the end of the world: a penance of kale,
jerusalem artichokes, brussels sprouts,
some serviceberries, windfall apples
and the dubious bounty of hickory nuts.

Pretty slim pickings for the Tribulation
if that's what this is, preceding
the Rapture I choose to be left out of.
Having never acceded to an initial coming
I hold out no hope for a second
let alone this bland vision of mail-order angels
lifting born-again drivers up from behind the wheel
leaving the rest of us loose on the highways
to play out a rudderless dodgem.

When parents were gods survival was a game
I played in my head, reading by flashlight
under the covers Swiss Family Robinson
and The Adventures of Perrine, who lived in a hut
and was happy weaving moccasins out of marsh grass.

I longed to be orphaned like her, out on my own,
befriending little creatures of the woods,
never cold or wet or hungry. to be snug
in spite of the world's world is the child-hermit's plan.
Meekly I ate the detested liver and lima beans.

Now all of the gods agree, no part of the main
can survive the nuclear night. and yet,
like a student of mine who is writing a book
on an island linked by once-a-week ferry
to Juneau, where one pay phone and a hot spring bath
suffice for all, in innocent ways we still
need to test the fringe of the freezing dark.
He thinks he can be happy there year round
and the child in me envies his Cave of the Winds.

Meanwhile I fling cornstalks and cucumber,
pea and squash vines across the fence
and the horses mosey over to bet carrot tops.
I am mesmerized by the gesture, handfeeding
feathery greens to the brood mares. this could

be last year or five years or ten years ago
and I sense it is ending, this cycle of saving
and sprouting: a houseful of seedlings in March,
the cutworms in May, June's ubiquitous weeds,
the long August drought peppered with grasshoppers
even as I lop the last purple cabbage, big
as a baby's head, big as my grandson's brain
who on the other side of the world is naming
a surfeit of tropical fruits in five-tone Thai.
A child I long to see again,
growing up in a land where thousands, displaced,
unwanted, diseased, are awash in despair.

Who will put the wafer of survival on their tongues,
lift them out of the camps, restore
their villages, replant their fields, those gardens
that want to bear twelve months of the year?
Who gets Rapture?

Sidelong we catch film clips of the Tribulation
but nobody wants to measure the breadth and length
of the firestorms that lurk in Overkill,
certitude of result though overwhelming strength,
they define it in military circles,

their flyboys swirling up in sunset contrails.
The local kids suit up to bob for apples,
go trick-or-treating on both sides of Main.
November rattles its dry husks down the food chain
on this peaceable island at the top of the hill.

--Maxine Kumin


"The Region November"

It is hard to hear the north wind again,
And to watch the treetops, as they sway.

They sway, deeply and loudly, in an effort,
So much less than feeling, so much less than speech,

Saying and saying, the way things say
On the level of that which is not yet knowledge:

A revelation not yet intended.
It is like a critic of God, the world

And human nature, pensively seated
On the waste throne of his own wilderness.

Deeplier, deeplier, loudlier, loudlier,
The trees are swaying, swaying, swaying.

--Wallace Stevens


"November Calf"

She calved in the ravine, beside
the green-scummed pond.
Full clouds and mist hung low --
it was unseasonably warm. Steam
rose from her head as she pushed
and called; her cries went out
over the still-lush fields.

First came the front feet, then
the blossom-nose, shell-pink
and glistening; and then the broad
forehead, flopping black ears,
and neck . . . . She worked
until the streaming length of him
rushed out onto the ground, then
turned and licked him with her wide
pink tongue. He lifted up his head
and looked around.

The herd pressed close to see, then
frolicked up the bank, flicking
their tails. It looked like revelry.
The farmer set off for the barn,
swinging in a widening arc
a frayed and knotted scrap of rope.

--Jane Kenyon


"Letter in November"

Love, the world
Sudenly turns, turns color. The streetlight
Splits through the rat's-tail
Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic,

This little black
Circle, with its tawn silk grasses -- babies' hair.
There is a green in the air,
Soft, delectable.
It cushions me lovingly.

I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
My wellingtons
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red.

This is my property.
Two times a day
I pace it, sniffing
The barbarous holly with its viridian
Scallops, pure iron,

And the wall of old corpses.
I love them.
I love them like history.
The apples are golden,
Imagine it ----

My seventy trees
Holding their gold-ruddy balls
In a thick gray death-soup,
Their million
Gold leaves metal and breathless.

O love, O celibate.
Nobody but me
Walks the waist-high wet.
The irreplaceable
Golds bleed and deepen, the mouths of Thermopylae.

--Sylvia Plath


"Solitude Late at Night in the Woods"

The body is like a November birch facing the full moon
And reaching into the cold heavens.
In these trees there is no ambition, no sodden body, no leaves,
Nothing but bare trunks climbing like cold fire!

My last walk in the trees has come. At dawn
I must return to the trapped fields,
To the obedient earth.
The trees shall be reaching all the winter.

It is a joy to walk in the bare woods.
The moonlight is not broken by the heavy leaves.
The leaves are down, and touching the soaked earth,
Giving off the odors that partridges love.

--Robert Bly


"The November Angels"

Late dazzle
of yellow
the simplified woods,
spare chipping away
of the afternoon-stone
by a small brown finch --
there is little
for them to do,
and so their gossip is
idle, modest:

the Earth-pelt
dapples and flows
with slow bees
that spin
the thick, deep jute
of the gold time's going,
the pollen's
traceless retreat;
enter their kingdom,
their blue crowns on fire,
and feast on the still-wealthy world.

A single, cold blossom
tumbles, fledged
from the sky's white branch.
And the angels
look on,
observing what falls:
all of it falls.

Their hands hold
no blessings,
no word
for those who walk
in the tall black pines,
who do not
feel themselves falling --
the ones who believe
the loved companion
will hold them forever,
the ones who cross through
alone and ask for no sign.

The afternoon
lengthens, steepens,
flares out --
no matter for them.
It is assenting
that makes them angels,
neither increased
nor decreased
by the clamorous heart:
their only work
to shine back,
however the passing brightness
hurts their eyes.

--Jane Hirschfield


"A Debt"

I come on the debt again this day in November

It is raining into the yellow trees
The night kept raising white birds
The fowls of darkness entering winter
But I think of you seldom
You lost nothing you need entering death

I tell you the basket has woven itself over you
If there was grief it was in pencil on a wall
At no time had I asked you for anything

What did you take from me that I still owe you

Each time it is
A blind man opening his eyes

It is a true debt it can never be paid
How have you helped me
Is it with speech you that combed out your voice till the ends bled
Is it with hearing with waking of any kind
You in the wet veil that you chose it is not iwht memory
Not with sight of any kind not

It is a true debt it is mine alone
It is nameless
It rises from poverty
It goes out from me into the trees
Night falls

It follows a death like a candle
But the death is not yours

--W. S. Merwin


"Late November"

The white sun
like a moth
on a string
circles the southpole.

--A. R. Ammons


"Trying to Sleep Late on a Saturday Morning in November"

In the living room walter Cronkite
prepares us for the moon shot.
We are approaching
the third and final phase, this
is the last exercise.
I settle down,
far down into the covers.

My son is wearing his space helmet.
I see him move down the long airless corridor,
his iron boots dragging.

My own feet grow cold.
I dream of yellow jackets and near
frostbite, two hazards
facing the whitefish fishermen
on Satus Creek.

But there is something moving
there in the frozen reeds,
something on its side that is
slowing filling with water.
I turn onto my back.
All of me is lifting at once,
as it if were impossible to drown.

--Raymond Carver


"Wild Turkeys in Paradise"

Just down the slope from my own deck,
two apple trees I planted years ago,
now fully grown, stretch out their arms
as if they were enjoying the late warmth
of the November sun.
They bore so many apples that
I let them ripen unplucked on the branch
and fall, according to the rhythm of the year.
Such bounty piled up on the ground
the grazing deer could not
consume them as they rotted and turned brown,
and I could smell their pungency
when the wind blew from the east
until the first snow came and covered them.
Last Sunday, strutting stupid from the woods -- as if
no hunters stalked Vermont --
six turkeys gathered by the trees,
bobbing their jowly heads beneath the snow
to slurp the apple nectar, so fermented that
just twenty minutes later
they were reeling, and their eyes
blazed with amazing knowledge that transported them,
within their bodies, into paradise.
Despite their drunkness,
despite the ice that kept them shifting one foot
to the frozen next,
they kept their balance in a dance
of bumping lightly up against each other,
circling, brushing wings, and then --
as if their inner music paused --
they'd dip their heads back underneath the snow
and lift them up so high
their necks stretched out to twice their length
to let the trickling juice prolong their ecstacy.
And thus unfolds a moral tale:
To be plain stupid is
to be divinely blessed, and lacking that
transcendent gift, an animal as advanced as I
requires a holiday
to cultivate stupidity, to choose
one Sunday morning to know
nothing of ongoing hunger but
my body trembling in the sun,
drunk on itself, so that right here on earth,
right now, I tasted paradise --
as, so to speak, in talking turkey, I now do.
My pilgrim mind has taken flight
and then returned to join
my body stomping in the snow; and so
I raise a toast to say:
I give thanks in behalf of six dazed, drunken birds
that grace the icy view
beneath my apple trees today!

--Robert Pack


Saturday, October 14, 2006


Some October Poems

"October Dawn"

October is marigold, and yet
A glass half full of wine left out

To the dark heaven all night, by dawn
Has dreamed a premonition

Of ice across its eye as if
The ice-age had begun its heave.

The lawn overtrodden and strewn
From the night before, and the whistling green

Shrubbery are doomed. Ice
Has got its spearhead into place.

First a skin, delicately here
Restraining a ripple from the air;

Soon plate and rivet on pond and brook;
Then tons of chain and massive lock

To hold rivers. Then, sound by sight
Will Mammoth and Sabre-tooth celebrate

Reunion while a fist of cold
Squeezes the fire at the core of the world,

Squeezes the fire at the core of the heart,
And now it is about to start.

--Ted Hughes


"A Letter in October"

Dawn comes later and later now,
and I, who only a month ago
could sit with coffee every morning
watching the light walk down the hill
to the edge of the pond and place
a doe there, shyly drinking,

then see the light step out upon
the water, sowing reflections
to either side -- a garden
of trees that grew as if by magic --
now see no more than my face,
mirrored by darkness, pale and odd,

startled by time. While I slept,
night in its thick winder jacket
bridled the doe with a twist
of wet leaves and led her away,
then brought its black horse with harness
that creaked like a cricket, and turned

the water garden under. I woke,
and at the waiting window found
the curtains open to my open face;
beyond me, darkness. And I,
who only wished to keep looking out,
must now keep looking in.

--Ted Kooser


from "The Daily Mirror: A Journal in Poetry"
October 15

Before I read your
poem, dear Charles,
I'd have planned on
Keats at second base
Shelley at short
Wordsworth in center
Coleridge in left
Byron at first base
John Clare in right
Leigh Hunt at third
Blake catching and
Whitman a surprise
starter on the mound
with Poe available
for short relief
in Yankee Stadium
where the October shadows
lengthen in left field
as Yogi Berra once put it
it gets late early there

--David Lehman


"The Glass Door"

Like someone who opens a door of glass
or sees his own reflection in it
when he returns from the woods
the light falls so variously here at the end of October
that nothing is whole or can be made into a whole
because the cracks are too uncertain and constantly moving.

Then you experience the miracle
of entering into yourself like a diamond
in glass, enjoying its own fragility
when the storm carries everything else away
including the memory of a freckled girlfriend
out over the bluing lake hidden behind the bare hills.

--Henrik Nordbrandt
(translated by Thom Satterlee)


"All Hallows' Eve"

In the great silence of my favorite month,
October (the red of maples, the bronze of oaks,
A clear-yellow leaf here and there on birches),
I celebrated the standstill of time.

The vast country of the dead had its beginning everywhere:
At the turn of a tree-lined alley, across park lawns.
But I did not have to enter, I was not called yet.

Motorboats pulled up on the river bank, paths in pine needles.
It was getting dark early, no lights on the other side.

I was going to attend the ball of ghosts and witches.
A delegation would appear there in masks and wigs,
And dance, unrecognized, in the chorus of the living.

--Czeslaw Milosz
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan)


"October in Hyde Park"

The whitewashed monastery where we sat
listening to the Aegean and watched
a space capsule among the stars
will be closed now for the winter;
and the harbour bars,
cleared of the yacht crowd,
will be serving dawn ouzos to the crews
of the Aghios Ioannis and Nikolaos
where they play dominoes
by the light of a paraffin lamp
and the bouzouki music of Mikis Theodorakis.

Europe, after the first rain of winter,
glitters with sex and opinion.
A cold wind scours the condemned
playground; leaves swarm like souls
down bleak avenues as if they led
to the kingdom of the dead,
computer systems down with flu,
our death not from darkness but from cold.

Like the leaves we are coming within
sight of the final river,
its son et lumière
and breath of the night sea.
As if ghosts already,
we search our pockets for the Stygian fare.

--Derek Mahon


"Ischia in October"
To Fausto Malcovati

Once a volcano here belched with zest.
Later, a pelican plucked its breast.
Virgil dwelt not too far away,
and Wystan Audan held drinks at bay.

These days, the palaces' stucco peels,
frightful prices make longer bills.
Yet I somehow still make, amid
all these changes, my line ends meet.

A fisherman sails into the azure,
away from the drying bed's linen lure.
And autumn splashes the mountain ridge
with a wave unknown to the empty beach.

On the balustrade, my wife and child
peer at a distant piano lid
of sail, or at the small balloon
of Angelus fleeing the afternoon.

Unreachable, as it were, by foot,
an island as a kind of fate
suits solely the sirocco; but
we also are fluent at

banging the shutters. A sudden draft
scattering papers right and left
is proof that in this limestone
place we are not alone.

The rectangular, mortar-held eggshell,
enduring the wind's solid brow, as well
as the breakers' wet hammar works,
reveals at dusk three yolks.

The bougainvillea's tightly wound
scrawl helps the isolated ground
to shade its limited shame a bit,
avenging thus space with writ.

Almost no people; so tht pronouns
sharpen one's features all at once,
as though speech makes them definite like a lens
at the vista's expense.

And should someone sigh longingly "Home," your hand
more willingly than to the continent
might point to the cumulous peaks where great
worlds rise and disintegrate.

We are a threesome here and I bet
what we together are looking at
is three times more addressless and more blue
than what Aeneas saw sailing through.

--Joseph Brodsky



Summer, goodbye.
The days grow shorter.
Cranes walk the fairway now
In careless order.

They step so gradually
Toward the distant green
They might be brushstrokes
Animating a screen.

Mist canopies
The water hazard.
Nearby, the little flag lifts,
Brave but frazzled.

Under sad clouds
Two white-capped golfers
Stand looking off, dreamy and strange,
Like young girls in Balthus.

--Donald Justice


"End of October"

Leaves wait as the reversal of wind
comes to a stop. The stopped woods
are seized of quiet; waiting for rain
bird & bug conversations stutter to a
Between the road
and the car in the road and me in the car,
and the woods
and the forms standing tall and the broken
forms and the small forms that crawl there,
the rain begins to fall. Rain-strands,
thin slips of vertical rivers, roll
the shredded waters out of the cloud
and dump them puddling to the ground.
Like sticks half-drowned the trees
lean so my eyes snap some into
lightning shapes, bent & bent.
I leave the car to wee where, lower,
the leaves of the shrubs beaten goldleaf
huddle together. In some spaces
nothing but rain appears.

Whatever crosses over
through the wall of rain
changes; old leaves are
now gold. The wall is
continuous, doorless. True,
to get past this wall
there's no need for a door
since it closes around me
as I go through.

--Marie Ponsot


"October Ghosts"

Jenny cold, Janny darkness,
They are coming back again.
We came so early,
But now we are shoveled down
The long slide.
We carry a blackened crocus
In either hand.

I will walk with you and Callimachus
Into the gorges
Of Ohio, where the miners
Are dead with us.

They carry one another
In their arms, still alive.
What do I know of them? I know
Uncle Charlie prowling along the cold shores of their lives,
His meters broken,
And your voice the only living voice, the only
Wind the wind
Of this autumn.

I knew a beautiful woman when I was young.
She wept over me as one who could hardly care.
Diphtheria starred her earlobes,
And she wailed all night.
That time is gone when the young women died
Astounded to hear black veins in their bodies
Coil round one another all night.

Jenny, fat blossoming grandmother of the dead,
We were both young, and I nearly found you, young.
I could not find you. I prowled into my head,
The cold ghost of October that is my skull.
There is a god's plenty of lovers there,
The dead, the dying, and the beautiful.

But where are we,
Jenny darkness, Jenny cold?
Are we so old?
We came so early, we thought to stay so long.
But it is already midnight, and we are gone.
I have nothing at all against that song,
That minor bird I hear from the great frost,
My robin's song, the ancient nothingness.

Friends, I have stolen this line from Robinson,
From Jenny, and from springtime, and from bone,
And from the quick nuthatch, the blooming of wing upon the sky.

Now I know nothing, I can die alone.

--James Wright


"The Love for October"

A child looking at ruins grows younger
but cold
and wants to wake to a new name
I have been younger in October
than in all the months of spring
walnut and may leaves the color
of shoulders at the end of summer
a month that has been to the mountain
and become light there
the long grass lies pointing uphill
even in death for a reason
that none of us knows
and the wren laughs in the early shade now
come again shining glance in your good time
naked air late morning
my love is for lightness
of touch foot feather
the day is yet one more yellow leaf
and without turning I kiss the light
by an old well on the last of the month
gathering wild rose hips
in the sun

--W. S. Merwin


"Late October Night"

The night's cold, beautiful.
The groundskeeper's torching
the cleared, dry cornfield.
And the flames slowly set out
for the Danube
as when you left
for the ball in your full-length, yellow dress.

There are no violins here, no drums, no clarinets.
Just some voice swishes, grates
above me in the night,
as if your heavy hair
that I've inherited
were now being dragged behind the clouds
by ethereal wild geese.

The deer, too, stop
to listen to the rustle.
And indeed, it is you
who marches across their dilated pupils.
You're walking out of the hospital for good,
in disguise, leaving death
instead of yourself on the bed.

There's no lake in front of you, no stone,
no storm, no frightening quince-apple hill
on the road winding toward the graveyard.
You can amble freely between the poplars,
while, between unlit candles,
the chicory-eyed, craze woman --
even as she approaches -- is moving away.

The night's cold, beautiful.
Late October night, crystalline, blue.
The eyes of the pheasants, frightened
by the cornstalk fires, gleam
yellow from the top of the hill.
Shivering, I retreat beneath
the remaining yellow-gleaming walnut leaves.

--Sandor Csoori
(translated by Len Roberts)



Who can mediate
between the body and its undoing?
At night in each of my limbs
I feel the skeletal tree ache,
and I dream of leaves
in their feverish colors, floating
through the small streams
and tributaries of the blood.
At noon in the smoldering woods
I gather black grapes
that purse and caress the mouth,
I gather thistles and burrs --
whole armfuls of dissolution,
while from a branch
the chuck-will's widow calls
forgive, forgive

--Linda Pastan


"Hard and Fast"

A clarifying high
wind in October's
shanky last days --

maples luminous
mounds or
glacial hills dressed

down to shiny outline:
and thickets only
darkness traveled

through, clearly having
kept nothing worth
looking for: October

winds redress summer
tendencies, from
the litter of

freeze-scorched branches
to whistling gray
limb and clatter --

plenty of
clarification coming
ice can seal in tight.

--A. R. Ammons


"Baled Hay"

Wheels of baled hay bask in October sun:
Gold circles strewn across the sloping field,
They seem arranged as if each one
Has found its place; together they appeal
To some glimpsed order in my mind
Preceding my chance pausing here --
A randomness that also seems designed.
Gold circles strewn across the sloping field
Evoke a silence deep as my deep fear
Of emptiness; I feel the scene requires
A listener who can respond with words, yet who
Prolongs the silence that I still desire,
Relieved as clacking crows come flashing through,
Whose blackness shows chance radiance of fire.
Yet stillness in the field remains for everyone:
Wheels of baled hay bask in October sun.

--Robert Pack


from "October"

Summer after summer has ended,
balm after violence:
it does me no good
to be good to me now;
violence has changed me.

Daybreak. The low hills shine
ochre and fire, even the fields shine.
I know what I see: sun that could be
the August sun, returning
everything that was taken away --

You hear this voice? This is my mind's voice;
you can't touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened,
don't ask it to respond again.

A day like a day in summer.
Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples
nearly mauve on the gravel paths.
And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer.

It does me no good; violence has changed me.
My body has grown cold like the stripped fields;
now there is only my mind, cautious and wary,
with the sense it is being tested.

Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer;
bounty, balm after violence.
Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields
have been harvested and turned.

Tell me this is the future,
I won't believe you.
Tell me I'm living,
I won't believe you.

--Louise Gluck


"Of Possibility: Another Autumn Leaving"
Here they come like miniature herds
of headless ponies without hooves,
stampeding, rearing, trampling one another.
They corral to circle upward themselves
like air-borne droves of crippled brown
crows, rising in fragments of dust spouts,
raining down singly in swiveling pieces.

As if they were blind, they batter
against barricades, pile along brick
walls, boulders, wooden fences, filling
gullies and clefts, multitudes deep
as if they had no need to breathe.
Even with bodies without lungs,
there's a ghost cusp and sigh, a hollow
desert buzz to their rousing.

They sweep all night in the dry-moon
rasp of their rattling trance.
They scutter and reel up the windowpanes
on their hundred pins, over the roof
in their thorny flocks. Though totally
lacking bones or the tatters of bones,
still they shrivel and quake.
Though totally devoid of hearts
or the rubbish of hearts, still
they are brittle and heedless.

Even without souls, they shiver and rend.
Even without devils, they make ritual
processions of their deprivations. With no
word at all, they lie. They stutter.
They testify to themselves. Even lost
and without a god, they make visions
of the invisible, become the buffet,
the possessed, the very place of wind.
They are the time and tangible nexus
of all heavenly spirits. Even without tongues,
they clatter their tongues.

--Pattiann Rogers

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


A Small Petting Zoo of Animal Poems

for World Animal Day (although a day late).

An armada of thirty whales

(galleons in sea-pomp) sails
over the emerald ocean.

The ceremonial motion
of their ponderous race is

given dandiacal graces
in the ballet of their geysers.

Eyes deep-set in whalebone vizors
have found a Floridian beach;

they leave their green world to fish.
Like the Pliocene midge, they declare

their element henceforth air.
What land they walk upon

becomes their Holy Land;
when these pilgrims have all found tongue

how their canticles shall be sung!
They nudge the beach with their noses,

eager for hedgerows and roses;
their raise their great snouts from the sea

and exulting gigantically
each trumpets a sousaphone wheeze

and stretches his finfitted knees.
But they who won't swim and can't stand

lie mired in mud and in sand,
and the sea and the wind and the worms

will contest the last willof the sperms.

--Daniel Hoffman


Being Accomplished

Balancing on her haunches, the mouse can accomplish
Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
From a barley seed in paperlike pieces the size of threads.
She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
The size of her mouth. She can burrow in sand and grasp
One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
A quarter of a dried pea can fill her palm.

She can hold the earless, eyeless head
Of her furless baby and push it to her teat.
The hollow of its mouth must feel like the invisible
Confluence sucking continually deep inside a pink flower.

And the mouse is almost compelled
To see everything. Her hand, held up against the night sky,
Can scarcely hide Venus or Polaris
Or even a corner of the crescent moon.
It can cover only a fraction of the blue moth's wing.
Its shadow could never mar or blot enough of the evening
To matter.

Imagine the mouse with her spider-sized hands
Holding to a branch of dead hawthorn in the middle
Of the winter field tonight. Picture the night pressing in
Around those hands, forced, simply by their presence,
To fit its great black bulk exactly arond every hair
And every pinlike nail, fored to outline perfectly
Every needle-thin bone without crushing one, to carry
Its immensity right up to the precise boundary of flesh
But no farther. Think how the heavy weight of infinity,
Expanding outward in all directions forever, is forced,
Nevertheless, to mold itself right here and now
To every peculiarity of those appendages.

And even the mind, capable of engulfing
The night sky, capable of enclosing infinity,
Capable of surrounding itself inside any contemplation,
Has been obliged, for this moment, to accomodate the least
Grasp of that mouse, the dot of her knuckle, the accomplishment
Of her slightest intent.

--Pattiann Rogers



Seen from a distance, dappled and picturesque
in the green meadows of June, they are schoolgirls
on a Saturday outing with their doting teacher,
fussing at braid ribbons, sashes, reminding them
where there is mud, where there are briars, thorns.
You expect them to form a single file, uphill
singing their school song. But no,
they do not budge. It's you who climb
over the fence to take a second look.
Now they are matrons, big portly flanks
of settled ideas, how things are done,
rights and wrongs like clunky bells at their necks,
tight little lace-up boots in allthis mud.
They should be having polite conversation,
clichés like dainty china tinkling with use.
Doe eyes turn towards you as you approach
seeing, unseeing, who knows? There is no reaction --
as if you had time-traveled here, a future ghost
among these Victorian ladies at their repose
in these their green impeccable 19th century parlors.
But look close, the future you dragged here
like mud on your shoes has soiled their thick carpets.
Before your eyes these gals are coming apart:
green cud dribbling from their mouths, udders
distended and pink hang close to the ground,
nipples leaking near to their milking time.
It's as if you were watching their becoming
contemporaries. Down with proprieties!
The ladies grow randy, decadent, belch their moos.
They chew their cud noisily, lift their tails,
and drop their turds, amble away, wagging their hips.
As if the most indentured, settled mind
might break the bonds by which it enslaves itself
climb over the fence to take a closer look.

--Julia Alvarez


The Snow Monkey Argues with God

Four days the mother
Snow Monkey carries
her still-born baby
before she leaves it

by a rocky stream. Then
she finds a high place
where she can brood alone
and still see her sisters

with their babies.
Four days she groomed
what should have been
as lively as these others.

If the Snow Monkey hurts
this way, can she not
also know what death is?
Or at least what it is not.

The thing she left downstream
is not like these babies,
tugging and pulling
at their mothers, trying

to focus four-day-old
eyes on falling water
and sunlight skittering
under moving tree-branches.

While she watches her sisters
tenderly nursing
their young, she must feel
the wordless

old quarrel: better
that this paradise be burnt
to a clean white ash
than for any living

creature to have to lay down
on streamside rocks
what has been loved, what
stinks to high heaven.

--David Huddle


The Hen

The Hen
Worships the dust. She finds God everywhere.
Everywhere she finds his jewels.
And she does not care
What the cabbage thinks.

She has forgotten flight
Because she has interpreted happily
Her recurrent dream
Of clashing cleavers, of hot ovens,
And of the little pen-knife blade
Splitting her palate.
She flaps her wings, like shallow egg-baskets,
To show her contempt
For those who live on escape
And a future of empty sky.

She rakes, with noble, tireless foot,
The treasury of the dirt,
And clucks with the mechanical alarm clock
She chose instead of song
When the Creator
Separated the Workers and the Singers.

With her eye on reward
She tilts her head religiously
At the most practical angle
Which reveals to her
That the fox is a country superstition,
That her eggs have made man her slave
And tht the heavens, for all their threatening,
Have not yet fallen.

And she is stern. Her eye is fierce -- blood
(That weakness) is punished instantly.
She is a hard bronze of uprightness.
And indulges herself in nothing
Except to swoon a little, a delicious slight swoon,
One eye closed, just before sleep,
Conjouring the odour of tarragon.

--Ted Hughes


The Manatee

Deep sunk in the dreamtime of his terminal coma,
the manatee persists like a vegetative outpatient,
victim of the whirling propellers of impatience
and a buoyantly bovine quiescence gone nova.

Dream deep, brother. Dream long and deep, sister sea-cow.
May millenia of soft tides and seagrass sustain thy sleep
across the dark ages of extinction. May your memory keep
heavy the hearts and hulls of your inheritors. Us, for now.

--Campbell McGrath



It lives in the damps of rejection,
in the dark drain, feeding upon the effluvia
of what we are, of what we've already been.

Everything comes down to this: we are its living --
the fallen hair, the fingernail, the grease from a pore,
used toothpaste, a detritus of whiskers and dead skin.

All this comes down and worries it into life,
its body soft as lymph, a living expectoration,
a glorified rheum. In the silent morning

when we least expect it, it is there
on the gleaming white porcelain: the silver scales,
the many feelers busy busy so fast, it is

unnerving, causing a certain panic in us,
a galvanic revulsion (Will it reach us
before we reach it?
), its body

translucent, indefinable, an electric jelly
moving with beautiful sweeps of the feet
like a sinuous trireme, delicate and indecent,

sexual and cleopatric. It moves for a moment
in the light, while its silver flashes and slides,
and part of us notices an elusive beauty,

an ingenious grace in what has been cast off.
As if tears and the invisibly falling dandruff,
skin cells and eyelashes

returned with an alien and silken intelligence,
as if chaos were always disintegrating into order,
elastic and surprising,

as if every cell had a second chance
to link and glitter and climb toward the light,
feeling everything as if for the first time --

pausing stunned, stupefied with light.
Before we, frightened by such possibilities,
with a large wad of tissue come down on it,

and crush it until it is nothing
but dampness and legs, an ioly smear
writing a broken Sanskrit on the paper,

a message we choose not to read
before committing it to the water
swirling blankly at our touch,

hoping that will take care of it,
trying not to think of it -- the dark
from which it will rise again.

--Robert Siegel


Finches Feeding

They fall like feathered cones from the tree above,
sumi the painted grass where the birdseed is,
skirl like a boiling pot
or a shallow within a river --
a bar of gravel breaking the water up.

Having said that, what have I said?
Not much.

Neither my delight nor the length of my watching is conveyed
and nothing profound recorded, yet these birds
as I observe them
stir such feelings up --
such yearnings for weightlessness, for hollow bones,
rapider heartbeat, east/west eyes
and such wonder -- seemingly half remembered -- as they rise
spontaneously into air, like feathered cones.

--P. K. Page



By its nobship sailing upside down,
by its inner sexes, by the crystalline
pimplings of its skirts, by the sucked-on
lifelong kiss of its toppling motion,
by the viscose optics now extruded
now wizened instanteously, by the
ridges grating up a food-path, by
the pop shell in its nick of dry,
by excretion, the earthworm coils,the glibbing,
by the gilt slipway, and by pointing
perhaps as far back into time as
ahead, a shore being folded interior,
by boiling on salt, by hiding the Oligocene
underleaf may this and every snail sense
itself ornament the the weave of presence.

--Les Murray


The Moth

The moth
having left its pupa
in the galaxy of flour grains
and pots of rancid

the moth
discovers in this
topical darkness
that it's a kind of butterfly
it can't believe it,
it can't believe it,

it can't believe
that it's a tiny,
flying, relatively
free moth

and it wants to go back,
but there's no way.

Freedom makes
the moth tremble
forever, that is,
twenty-two hours.

-- Miroslav Holub
(translated from the Czechoslovakian
by David Young and Dana Habova)


Herd of Buffalo Crossing the Missouri on Ice

If dragonflies can mate atop the surface tension
of water, surely these tons of bison can mince
across the river, their fur peeling in strips like old

wallpaper, their huge eyes adjusting to how far
they can see when there's no big or little bluestem,
no Indian grass nor prairie cord grass to plod through.

Maybe because it's bright in the blown snow
and swirling grit, their vast heads lowered
to the gray ice: nothing to eat, little to smell.

They have their own currents. You could watch a herd
of running pronghorn swerve like a river rounding
a meander and see better what I mean. But

bison are a deeper, deliberate water, and there will
never be enough water for any West but the one
into which we watch these bison carefully disappear.

--William Matthews

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