Two days of snow, then ice and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees. Hunger wills them, hunger pulls them to the compass of light spilling from the farmyard pole. They dip their heads, hold forked hooves above snow, turn furred ears to scoop from the wind the sounds of hounds, or men. They lap at a sprinkling of grain, pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale. The smallest is lame, with a leg healed at angles, and a fused knob where a joint once bent. It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb across the ice's dark platter. Their fear is thick as they break a trail to the center of their predator's range. To know the winter is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines, to search for a scant meal gleaned from the carelessness of a killer.
Copyright © 2012 by Mark Wunderlich. Used with permission of the author.
Scattered through the ragtaggle underbrush starting to show green shoots lie the dark remains of rail sleepers napping now beside the rusted-out wreck of a Chevy that was once sky-blue and now is nothing but shattered panels and anonymous bits of engine in the ditch by a path that was once a railway line cut between small hills whose silence hasn't been broken by the rattle and lonesome-blown whistle of a train for fifty years and whose air hasn't filled for ages with my childhood's smell (set by Seapoint on the coastal line) of coal smoke and hot steam puffed up in great cloud-breaths out of a black-sooted chimney.
Copyright © 2011 by Eamon Grennan. Used with permission of the author.
The water understands Civilization well; It wets my foot, but prettily, It chills my life, but wittily, It is not disconcerted, It is not broken-hearted: Well used, it decketh joy, Adorneth, doubleth joy: Ill used, it will destroy, In perfect time and measure With a face of golden pleasure Elegantly destroy.
Whenever the moon and stars are set, Whenever the wind is high, All night long in the dark and wet, A man goes riding by. Late in the night when the fires are out, Why does he gallop and gallop about? Whenever the trees are crying aloud, And ships are tossed at sea, By, on the highway, low and loud, By at the gallop goes he. By at the gallop he goes, and then By he comes back at the gallop again.
This poem is in the public domain.
They lived enamoured of the lovely moon, The dawn and twilight on their gentle lake. Then Passion marvellously born did shake Their breast and drave them into the mid-noon. Their lives did shrink to one desire, and soon They rose fire-eyed to follow in the wake Of one eternal thought,—when sudden brake Their hearts. They died, in miserable swoon. Of all their agony not a sound was heard. The glory of the Earth is more than they. She asks her lovely image of the day: A flower grows, a million boughs are green, And over moving ocean-waves the bird Chases his shadow and is no more seen.
This poem is in the public domain.
and backwards go the men into the garden, and what is it herding them but a haircut and a vacuous look they had when they were twenty, which earned its horns twice over if they had the same cut and look when they were thirty. Forget about great men, and soon the great forgetting will be over, leaving all that is left all over. Forward go long sleeves, a longitude, and shame. What is herding them you are. All over the world, curtains drew and obscured lush portages the world over, and there were some sighs but mostly it was better than continuing to want better. Ponies cannot love children. But O, those ponies. Those ponies.
From Northerners, published by New Issues Press. Copyright © 2011 by Seth Abramson. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Very quick. Very intense, like a wolf
at a live heart, the sun breaks down.
What is important is to avoid
the time allotted for disavowels
as the livid wound
leaves a trace leaves an abscess
takes its contraction for those clouds
that dip thunder & vanish
like rose leaves in closed jars.
Age approaches, slowly. But it cannot
crystal bone into thin air.
The small hours open their wounds for me.
This is a woman's confession:
I keep this wolf because the wilderness gave it to me.
Sources: [Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas, Larry Levis, Ingeborg Bachmann, Octavio Paz, Henri Michaux, Agnes Nemes Nagy, Joyce Mansour, William Burroughs, Meret Oppenheim, Mary Low, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg]
Copyright © 2011 by Simone Muench. Used with permission of the author.
It's a gift, this cloudless November morning warm enough to walk without a jacket along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing of your feet through fallen leaves should be enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you when you catch yourself telling off your boss for a decade of accumulated injustices, all the things you've never said circling inside you. The rising wind pulls you out of it, and you look up to see a cloud of leaves wheeling in sunlight, flickering against the blue and lifting above the treetops, as if the whole day were sighing, Let it go, let it go, for this moment at least, let it all go.
Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey Harrison. Used with permission of the author.
I. I gave you back my claim on the mining town and the rich vein we once worked, the tumble down from a sluice box that irked you so much, the narrow gauge that opened up to one and all when it ran out at the landing stage beyond the falls. I gave you back oak ties, bully flitches, the hand-hewn crossbeams from which hung hardtack in a burlap bag that, I'd surmise, had burst its seams the last night we lay by the old spur track. II. You gave me back your frown and the most recent responsibility you'd shirked along with something of your renown for having jumped from a cage just before it jerked to a standstill, your wild rampage shot through with silver falderals, the speed of that falling cage and the staidness of our canyon walls. You gave me back lake skies, pulley glitches, gully pitches, the reflected gleams of two tin plates and mugs in the shack, the echoes of love sighs and love screams our canyon walls had already given back.
Excerpted from Maggot by Paul Muldoon. Published in September 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2010 by Paul Muldoon. All rights reserved.
through the trip wired minefield hand in hand eyes for nothing but ourselves alone undaunted by the traps & pits of wasted land until you stoop & pluck a stem of eyebright
From On the Night Watch by Ciaran Carson. Copyright © 2010 by Ciaran Carson. Used by permission of Wake Forest University Press.
A cry was heard among the trees, not a man's, something deeper. The forest extended up one side the mountain and down the other. None wanted to ask what had made the cry. A bird, one wanted to say, although he knew it wasn't a bird. The sun climbed to the mountaintop, and slid back down the other side. The black treetops against the sky were like teeth on a saw. They waited for it to come a second time. It's lost, one said. Each thought of being lost and all the years that stretched behind. Where had wrong turns been made? Soon the cry came again. Closer now.
From Winter's Journey by Stephen Dobyns. Copyright © 2010 by Stephen Dobyns. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.