Saturday, March 27, 2010

Michael Dennis Browne

The Dead Bear

O bear

In your mortuary of wind!

You hang & swing
from your teeth from the cord
from the pole from the tree

O never hang me like this black
bear in Minnesota, will you

Hung, four days & nights,

Two logs jammed there
keep your belly open to dry


In the forest the wolves run
their fluent packs,
I cannot handle them

But you
as the snow falls
I can come to you

O bear
as the ice clamps the lake now
& moon walks on the whiteness
I can come to you
where you hang
between two trees

& as other living
stand & sniff
stand in harmony like horses

I can reach to you
Rap, rap
I can bang on you
as I could not
when you moved & lived
I can touch you

only in death

as only in death
I can touch so many more

Browne, Michael Dennis. The Wife of Winter. New York: Scribner's and Sons, 1970. 114-115.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Robinson Jeffers

Birds and Fishes

Every October millions of little fish come along the shore,
Coasting this granite edge of the continent
On their lawful occasions: but what a festival for the sea-fowl.
What a witches' sabbath of wings
Hides the dark water. The heavy pelicans shout "Haw!" like Job's
     friend's warhorse
And dive from the high air, the cormorants
Slip their long black bodies under the water and hunt like wolves
Through the green half-light. Screaming, the gulls watch,
Wild with envy and malice, cursing and snatching. What hysterical
What a filling of pouches! the mob
Hysteria is nearly human—these decent birds!—as if they were finding
Gold in the street. It is better than gold,
It can be eaten: and which one in all this fury of wild-fowl pities the
No one certainly. Justice and mercy
Are human dreams, they do not concern the birds nor the fish nor
     eternal God.
However—look again before you go.
The wings and wild hungers, the wave-worn skerries,
     the bright quick minnows
Living in terror to die in torment—
Man's fate and theirs—and the island rocks and immense ocean
     beyond, and Lobos
Darkening above the bay: they are beautiful?
That is their quality: not mercy, not mind, not goodness, but the
     beauty of God.

cited: Jeffers, Robinson. "Birds and Fishes." The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter, Jon Stallworthy. New York: Norton, 2005. 1323-1324.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Denise Levertov

Crow Spring

The crows are tossing themselves
recklessly in the random winds
of spring.
One friend has died, one disappeared
(for now, at least) leaving no address;
I've lost the whereabouts
of a wandering third. This seems to be,
this year, the nature of the season.
Is it a message about relinquishment?
Across the water, rain's veil, gray silk,
flattens the woods to two dimensions.
While close at hand
the crows' black fountain
jets and falls, jets and blows
this way and that.
How they scoop themselves
up from the airy nadirs!

Levertov, Denise. Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 2002. 193.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Louise Glück


A dark night--the streets belong to the cats.
The cats and whatever small thing they find to kill--
The cats are fast like their ancestors in the hills
and hungry like their ancestors.

Hardly any moon. So the night's cool--
no moon to heat it up. Summer's on the way out
but for now there's still plenty to hunt
though the mice are quiet, watchful like the cats.

Smell the air--a still night, a night for love.
And every once in a while a scream
rising from the street below
where the cat's digging his teeth into the rat's leg.

Once the rat screams, it's dead. That scream is like a map:
it tells the cat where to find the throat. After that,
the scream's coming from a corpse.

You're lucky to be in love on nights like this,
still warm enough to lie naked on top of the sheets,
sweating, because it's hard work, this love, no matter what anyone says.

The dead rats lie in the street, where the cat drops them.
Be glad you're not on the street now,
before the street cleaners come to sweep them away. When the sun rises,
it won't be disappointed with the world it finds,
the streets will be clean for the new day and the night that follows.

Just be glad you were in bed,
where the cries of love drown out the screams of the corpses.

Glück, Louise. A Village Life. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. 31.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chase Twichell

Animal Graves

The mower flipped it belly up,
a baby garter less than a foot long,
dull green with a single sharp

stripe of pale manila down its back,
same color as the underside
which was cut in two places,

a loop of intestine poking out.

It wouldn't live,
so I ran the blades over it again,

and cut it again but didn’t kill it,

and again and then again,
a cloud of two-cycle fuel smoke
on me like a swarm of bees.

It took so long
my mind had time to spiral
back to the graveyard

I tended as a child
for the dead ones, wild and tame:
fish from the bubbling green aquarium,

squirrels from the road,
the bluejay stalked to a raucous death
by Cicero the patient, the tireless hunter,

who himself was laid to rest
one August afternoon
under a rock painted gray, his color,

with a white splash for his white splash.

Once in the woods I found the skeleton
of a deer laid out like a diagram,

long spine curved like a necklace of crude, ochre spools
with the string rotted away,

and the dull metal shaft of the arrow
lying where it must have pierced

not the heart, not the head,
but the underbelly, the soft part
where the sex once was.

I carried home the skull
with its nubs of not-yet-horns
which the mice had overlooked,

and set it on a rock
in my kingdom of the dead.

Before I chopped the little snake
to bits of raw mosaic,

it drew itself
into an upward-straining coil,
head weaving, mouth open,

hissing at the noise that hurt it.

The stripe was made
of tiny paper diamonds,
sharp-edged but insubstantial,

like an x-ray of the spine
or the ghost beginning to pull away.

What taught the snake to make itself
seem bigger than it was,
to spend those last few seconds

dancing in the roar
and shadow of its death?

Now I see, though none exists,
its grave:

harebells withered in a jar,
a yellow spiral
painted on a green-black stone,

a ring of upright pine cones for a fence.
That’s how the deer skull lay in state

until one of the neighborhood dogs
came to claim it,

and carried it off to bury
in the larger graveyard of the world.

Twichell, Chase. "Animal Graves."

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I ordered a book today: The Poets Guide to the Birds, edited by Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser.

I want to take it birdwatching. I want to carry it in my knapsack, a camera with a long lens, a thermos of hot chai tea, my writing notebook, a good pen, my Sibley, my quiet.