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.