Published on Academy of American Poets (

Counting the Senses

To sense the dead around us,  in places where they are attached, or to  sense past lives within the present one.  To sense the presence of birds or animals on the roadside in the dark,  or the moods of birds or animals, let alone people. There are tribes who can orient, even in the fog, naming the direction, east or west, that they are facing. There is the ability to see through lies, to feel an enemy at your back, to detect poison without taste, to dowse for water. You are up before dawn, walking the shore, picking up broken bits of plastic and shell. To sense in ever-refined levels the dissipating cloud-layers of oneself, what Ezra Pound named an "aristocracy of emotion." In the spruce copse near the confluence, you left your hair. Last night, we played Scrabble. My first word was divine. You added an s to it, doubling your score. In this very room, fourteen years ago, you turned over and found the lump.  Your hand rose to it, as if guided by a sense of love.


Copyright © Melissa Kwasny. Used with permission of the author.


Melissa Kwasny

Melissa Kwasny is the author of six books of poetry. She currently shares the position of Montana Poet Laureate with M.L. Smoker. In 2021, Kwasny and Smoker were named Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellows.

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