I noticed the mockingbirds first,
not for their call but the broad white bands,
like reverse mourning bands on gunmetal
gray, exposed during flight
then tucked into their chests. A thing
seen once, then everywhere—
the top of the gazebo, the little cracked statue,
along the barbed fence. Noticed because
I know first with my eyes, then followed
their several songs braiding the trees.
Only later, this other, same-same-again song,
a bird I could not see but heard
when I walked from the house to the studio,
studio to the house, its three notes
repeated like a child’s up and down
on a trampoline looping
the ground to the sky—
When I remember being a child like this
I think I wouldn’t mind living alone
on a mountain, stilled into the daily
which isn’t stillness at all but a whirring
gone deep. The composer shows how
the hands, palms down, thumb to thumb
and forefinger to mirrored finger, make
a shape like a cone, a honeybee hive, and then
how that cone moves across the piano—
notes in groups fluttering fast back-and-forth
and it sounds difficult but it isn’t
really, how the hand likes to hover each patch
of sound. Likes gesture. To hold. Listening
is like this. How it took me a week to hear
the ever-there wren. And the bees
are like this, intent on their nectar,
their waggle dance better than any GPS.
A threatened thing. A no-one-knows-why.
But the wrens’ invisible looping their loop—
And I, for a moment, pinned to the ground.
Pinned and spinning in the sound of it.
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Donnelly. Used with permission of the author.
Are you bowed down in heart?
Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?
Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,
Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,
From out the palpitating solitude
Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?
They are above, around, within you, everywhere.
Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.
They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.
Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale
Until, responsive to the tonic chord,
It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,
Filling earth for you with heavenly peace
And holy harmonies.
This poem is in the public domain.
I hear you call, pine tree, I hear you upon the hill, by the silent pond
where the lotus flowers bloom, I hear you call, pine tree.
What is it you call, pine tree, when the rain falls, when the winds
blow, and when the stars appear, what is it you call, pine tree?
I hear you call, pine tree, but I am blind, and do not know how to
reach you, pine tree. Who will take me to you, pine tree?
This poem is in the public domain.
spring air the
we don’t know
wrap these blind-
From Creatures of a Day by Reginald Gibbons. Copyright © 2008 by Reginald Gibbons. Reprinted by permission of LSU Press. All rights reserved.
All eyes are fearful of the spotted hawk, whose dappled wingspread opens to a phrase that only victims gaping in the gaze of Death Occurring can recite. To stalk; to plunge; to harvest; the denial-squawk of dying's struggle; these are but a day's rebuke to hunger for the hawk, whose glazed accord with Death admits no show of shock. Death's users know it is not theirs to own, nor can they fathom all it means to die— for young to know a different Death from old. But when the spotted hawk's last flight is flown, he too becomes a novice, fear-struck by the certain plummet once these feathers fold.
From Skunk Night Sonnets by Daniel Waters. Copyright © 2009 by Daniel Waters. Used by permission of Bright Hill Press. All rights reserved.
No gate, no main entrance, no ticket, no ranger. Not far
From where Frost once raised chickens and ill-fated children, near
Where the Old Man’s glacier-hewn face though bolstered to
Its godlike roost by rods and turnbuckles slid
From our fledgling millennium into oblivion,
You can cross the Pemigewasset on a bridge
Then, compass-north but southbound on the trail,
Ascend an old grassed-over logging road
To the carved out collarbone of Cannon Mountain.
This is Lonesome Lake. How you go from here
Depends on why you’ve come: to out a spruce grouse
Or listen for the whee-ah of a Bicknell’s thrush;
For a breezy picnic or a midlife crisis,
A long haul or a day trip to the cascades.
Bring for your purposes only what you need:
Salmon jerky, a canteen or Camelbak,
Band-aids, a ratchet and strap, a roughed-up heart.
Bring sunblock, a notebook, the Beatles, Beyoncé,
The Bhagavad Gita, a Bible, some Hitchens or Hegel.
However long you stay you must leave nothing.
No matchbox, no pole-tip, no grommet, no cup.
Carry in and out your Clif Bar wrappers,
Your fear of bears and storms. Keep the rage
You thought you’d push through your boot-soles into the stones,
The grief you hoped to shed. If you think you’ve changed,
Take all your changes with you.
If you lift
An arrowhead from the leaves, return it. Pocket
No pinecone, no pebble or faery root. Resist
The painted trillium even if its purple throat
Begs to be pressed between your trail guide’s pages.
Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Dietz. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.
Between forest and field, a threshold like stepping from a cathedral into the street— the quality of air alters, an eclipse lifts, boundlessness opens, earth itself retextured into weeds where woods once were. Even planes of motion shift from vertical navigation to horizontal quiescence: there’s a standing invitation to lie back as sky’s unpredictable theater proceeds. Suspended in this ephemeral moment after leaving a forest, before entering a field, the nature of reality is revealed.
Copyright © Ravi Shankar. Used with permission of the author.