Published on Academy of American Poets (


                             Cowlake, Arkansas, 1969

For the horses, in the run between the barn and the pasture,
where a catalpa tree bears its crop of worms. What draws you?

Constant tug of the dark water, the still water, its insides
tin and slick with green. Almost as tall as you are and—

your cousin warns—big enough to drown in. Just inside
the barbed wire that snags you when you lean over to stir

the darkness, to stare at the fish, enormous fish in the dark water,
gold and black, rising like apparitions to the surface,

where you scatter oatmeal stolen from your grandma’s cupboards,
an offering, a secret. The fish come to you, bidden, hungry.

They are everywhere. They are always hungry.


From Signals (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Ed Madden. Used with the permission of the poet.


Ed Madden

Ed Madden was raised in Newport, Arkansas. He received a BA in English and French from Harding University, a BS in Biblical Studies from the Institute for Christian Studies, an MA in English from the University of Texas at Austin, and a PhD in literature from the University of Texas at Austin. His most recent collections include Ark (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016), Nest (Salmon Poetry, 2014), and Prodigal: Variations (Lethe Press, 2011). He is a professor of English and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of South Carolina, where he teaches Irish literature and creative writing. In 2019, he was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. Madden currently serves as the poet laureate of Columbia, South Carolina.

Date Published: 2008-03-04

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