Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Twelve Nature Poems

"Queen Anne's Lace"

It's a kind of flower
that if you didn't know it
you'd pass by the rest of your life.

But once it's been pointed out
you'll look for it always,
even in places
where you know it can't possibly be.

You'll never tire
of bending over to examine,
of marveling at this
shyest filigree of wonder
born among grasses.

You'll imagine poems
as brief, as spare,
so natural with themselves
as to take your breath away.

-- Raymond Souster

* * *

"The Beloved Hemorrhaged Anemones"

The beloved hemorrhaged anemones,
the purple land glittered with his wounds,
the first of its songs: the blood of love shed by gods,
and the last of it is blood . . .
O people of Canaan celebrate
your land's spring and set yourself aflame
like its flowers, O people of Canaan stripped
of your weapons, and become complete!
It's your good luck that you chose agriculture as a profession.
It's your bad luck that you chose the gardens
near god's borders,
where the sword writes clay's tale . . .
So let the grain spikes be your eternal army,
and let immortality be hunting dogs
in wheat fields,
and let the stags be free
like a pastoral poem . . .

The beloved hemorrhaged anemones,
and the rocks on the slope yellowed from
prolonged labour contractions,
then turned red,
then water flowed red
in our spring's veins . . .
The first of our songs is the blood of love
that gods shed,
and the lest is the blood shed by iron gods . . .

-- Mahmoud Darwish
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah

* * *

"Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri"

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.

But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.

The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone.

-- Mona Van Duyn

* * *

"White-Faced Heron"

The white-faced heron seems grammar and action
as the sun sharpens poise and balance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

Clots and twists of cloud confuse the fraction,
divisible quantity of math and trance,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action.

The surety of her being creates an equation,
dawn and sunset trigger clairvoyance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

We invest ourselves in her volatile station,
formulate moods on the fact of her presence,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action.

It's the pattern of speech we define as tension,
the hope of her being there, the thrill of chance,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

Language shapes a waterbird's intention,
pasture and water shape her stance,
the white-faced heron seems grammar and action,
solitary in a field provokes a reaction.

-- John Kinsella

* * *

"Creek Trout"

Silver, dark-spotted, each spot with a pale halo,
its sides striped with a rainbow band,

it is a flawless swimmer, and knows its way perfectly
through the water, as if its smooth, quick body

could feel the length of the creek,
from the mountain-side source of heavy rain to the inlet-meeting mouth.

To see the trout, to gaze after it
as the doors of the water open before it,

as the innumerable chambers of the creek open before it,
each chamber flowing through the other,

each new exultation, a new feeling of the touch of the creek,
a new entering and entering,

is to look through water
in which the trout becomes a single brilliant journeying grain,

a darting purplish ray, a piece of the voluptuous refuse of the first stars,
a glimpse of a crystal look,

and ;it is to look through the trout
as through a living lens, imagining what the trout knows --

through flesh wholly a vivid eye,
blind sight seeing light before it shines --

before the trout as soon disappears
behind the final door of the water,

shimmering, shadowy traces, connecting up all its traces
somewhere on the other side of the world.

-- Russell Thornton

* * *

"plum-branch galaxy"

plum-branch galaxy
hoarfrost dark grasses

breath, sounding web
thistle listen cloud

moth quicken fire
seed silver, mirage

a wind mirror pond
shine white hyacinth

--Ronald Johnson

* * *

"The Silence of Plants"

Our one-sided acquaintance
grows quite nicely.

I know what a leaf, petal, ear, cone, stalk is,
what april and December do to you.

Although my curiosity is not reciprocal,
I specially stoop over some of you,
and crane my neck at others.

I've got a list of names for you:
maple, burdock, hepatica,
mistletoe, heath, juniper, forget-me-not,
but you have none for me.

We're traveling together.
But fellow passengers usually chat,
exchange remarks at least about the weather,
or about the stations rushing past.

We wouldn't lack for topics: we've got a lot in common.
The same star keeps us in its reach.
We cast shadows based on the same laws.
We try to understand things, each in our own way,
and what we don't know brings us closer too.

I'll explain as best I can, just ask me:
what seeing with two eyes is like,
what my heart beats for,
and why my body isn't rooted down.
But how to answer unasked questions,
while being furthermore a being so totally
a nobody to you.

Undergrowth, coppices, meadows, rushes --
everything I tell you is a monologue,
and its not you who listens.

Talking with you is essential and impossible.
Urgent in this hurried life
and postponed to never.

-- Wislawa Szymborska
translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

* * *

"Pale Butterwort"

Pale butterwort's smoky blue colours your eyes:
I thought of this when I tried to put together
Your every feature, but a buzzard distracted me
As it quartered the tree-tops and added its skraik
Or screel to the papery purr of the dragonflies'
Love-flight, and with so much happening overhead
I forgot the pale butterwort there on the ground
Spreading its leaves like a starfish and digesting
Insects that squirm on each adhesive tongue and
Feed the terror in your eyes, your smoky blue eyes.

--Michael Longley

* * *

"With Quevedo, In Springtime"

Everything has flowered in
these fields, apple trees,
hesitant blues, yellow weeds,
and in green grass the poppies thrive.
The inextinguishable sky, the new air
of each day, the invisible shine within,
that gift of a wide and vast springtime.
But spring hasn't come to my room.
Diseases, dubious kisses,
that stuck like the church's ivy
to the black windows of my life,
and love alone is never enough, not even the wild
and expansive fragrance of spring.

And, to you, what can these mean now:
the orgiastic light, the evidence unfolding
like a flower, the green song
in the green leaves, the presence
of the sky with its goblet of freshness?
External spring, do not torment me,
unleashing wine and snow in my arms,
corolla and battered bouquet of sorrow,
just for today give me the sleep of nocturnal
leaves, the night of the dead, the metals, the roots
and so many extinguished springtimes
that awaken to life every spring.

-- Pablo Neruda
translated from the Spanish by William O'Daly

* * *

"On a Church Lawn"

Dandelion cavalry, light little saviors,
baffle the wind, they ride so light.
They surround a church and outside the window
utter their deaf little cry: "If you listen
well, music won't have to happen."

After service they depart singly
to mention in the world their dandelion faith:
"God is not big; He is right."

--William Stafford

* * *

"Once More"

Once more by the brook the alder leaves
turn mauve, bronze, violet, beautiful
after the green of crude summer; galled
black stems, pithy, tangled, twist in the
flesh-colored vines of wild cyclamen.
Mist drifts below the mountaintop
in prismatic tatters. The brook is full,
spilling down heavily, loudly, in silver
spate from the beaver ponds in the high
marshy meadows. the year is sinking:
heavily, loudly, beautifully. Deer move
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples.
The pileated woodpecker thumps a dead elm
slowly, irregularly, meditatively.
Like a broken telephone a cricket rings
without assertion in dead asters and
goldenrod; asters gone cloudy with seed,
goldenrod burnt and blackened. A gray trout
rests under the lip of glacial stone. One
by one the alder leaves plunge down to earth,
veering, and lie there, glowing, like a shirt
of Nessus. My heart in my ribs does what it
has done occasionally all my life: thumps and
heaves suddenly in irregular rhythm that makes
me gasp. How many times has this season turned
and gone down? How many! I move heavily
into the bracken, and the deer stand still
a moment, uncertain, before they break away,
snorting and bounding heavily before me.

-- Hayden Carruth

* * *

"Upset, Unable to Sleep, I Go for a Walk and
Stumble Upon Some Geese"

Bright dime
cut in two, one half
in the sky, the other fallen on the pond,
but no one will bother to pick it up,
the moon will never be whole again.
Up and down the grassy hillocks
they follow one another, walking
in groups under the grey glow.
I haven't even startled them, this is no hour
for a human. Together here they act
differently, like themselves,
warm-blooded, clumsy, bitching
at one another in a common language.
I wish I were asleep. They are large and warm.
I'd like to hold one of them,
hold, be held.

--Roo Borson

* * *
* * *

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