Tag Archives: poetry

Unabashed Gratitude

Image resultToday, a happy poem for you.

I’ve kept my colorful copy of Ross Gay’s delightful Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude within arm’s reach on the corner of my desk for over a year now. Here I can easily grab it, open any page, and feel a healing breeze. It’s a bright book, full of Neruda-esque odes and celebrations for a damaged, dazzling world, and I highly recommend it.

Wedding Poem
By Ross Gay

   for Keith and Jen

Friends I am here to modestly report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again,
until, swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch,
where the sunflower curled its giant
swirling of seeds
around the bird and leaned back
to admire the soft wind
nudging the bird’s plumage,
and friends I could see
the points on the flower’s stately crown
soften and curl inward
as it almost indiscernibly lifted
the food of its body
to the bird’s nuzzling mouth
whose fervor
I could hear from
oh 20 or 30 feet away
and see from the tiny hulls
that sailed from their
good racket,
which good racket, I have to say
was making me blush,
and rock up on my tippy-toes,
and just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel.

Swiftly

Everything feels like an elegy. I’ve heard, and felt, this sentiment often these past few weeks. When I think of the bears, sleeping in their dens, dreaming of spring lilies. When I walk down our road, and glimpse pheasants in the bare hedges, watch flickers puff out their spotted feathers between birch branches, pass the remains of a fallen buck, sharp ribs poking through his tattered hide. Even the river, winding along its icy banks, brings easy tears.

To be sure, recent events have rendered these feelings acute, aided too by the fact that winter is dying before spring’s first breath… but if I’m honest, I’ve always sort of felt this way about the world. Not to say I don’t feel equal measures of wonder and celebration, because I surely do, just not so prominently on this day.

Anyway, I haven’t written much poetry lately, but I just came across an old poem of mine about swift foxes that ran in High Desert Journal a decade ago, and it fit my mood. But see, there is even hope here. After years of endangerment, and considerable conservation efforts, their populations are now more stable, at least in portions of their historic range less threatened by habitat loss.
At least for now.

Swift Fox
Vulpes velox 

From knoll’s crest she watches
The prairie again, with those long
Egyptian eyes that slant just a little,
Just enough to fix nobility
In their unblinking grace.

Small as a cat and quiet too,
We call her swift, call her rare.
Vulpes velox,
A title with too many edges,
That matches only
Her forty-two pointed teeth,
And none of the softness
In her buff yellow fur, sweet
Between the bluestem,
Capped in an inky tail spot. 

On the ocean of the plains
She speeds beneath the shrieking
Night, tossing mice through the air
Like dull falling comets, breaking
Against pups’ mouths stretched wide. 

From the edge of a smooth-hole den
She is always listening
For the next howl, hungry coyote cousin,
Whose pups have bigger stomachs.
She can’t hear her prairie falling away
Beneath roads and cattle hooves,
But I think she knows
She isn’t fast enough.

— Kathleen Yale
* Published in High Desert Journal, Issue Number Three, Spring 2006

Photo by Gerald Romanchuck

 

Questionnaire

Questionnaire

How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security;
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

Wendell Berry

Tyee

Tyee
By Brian Doyle

I have been writing too many condolence letters lately.
I am using the same sorts of words and the words have
Become husks of what they used to be. Like the people
I am writing about. Who are there on the page, illusory
But adamant. Good thing for ritual. How else could we
Say anything without saying anything? Could it be that
Most of what we say aims at something other than what
We say? Could that be? We use words so casually, such
Flow and fluidity and panache, but what we want to say
Are the rocks in the stream, the occasional brilliant bird,
The serpentine mink, the lugubrious heron, the drowned
Ancient fungus-riddled salmon. I am writing about tyee,
The great chinook, the king of fish, and he held adamant
Behind a boulder for a while as he began to dissolve and
Now his time has come and he slips away and I type this
To his widow using words like my most sincere sorrows.
She knows and I know what I mean but for a moment all
I see on the page is the weary dignity holding in the pool.