Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock by Galway Kinnell

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Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock
by Galway Kinnell

1
I can support it no longer.
Laughing ruefully at myself
For all I claim to have suffered
I get up. Damned nightmarer!

It is New Hampshire out here,
It is nearly the dawn.
The song of the whippoorwill stops
And the dimension of depth seizes everything.

2
The whistles of a peabody bird go overhead
Like a needle pushed five times through the air,
They enter the leaves, and come out little changed.

The air is so still
That as they go off through the trees
The love songs of birds do not get any fainter.

3
The last memory I have
Is of a flower that cannot be touched,

Through the bloom of which, all day,
Fly crazed, missing bees.

4
As I climb sweat gets up my nostrils,
For an instant I think I am at the sea,

One summer off Cap Ferrat we watched a black seagull
Straining for the dawn, we stood in the surf,
Grasshoppers splash up where I step,
The mountain laurel crashes at my thighs.

5
There is something joyous in the elegies
Of birds. They seem
Caught up in a formal delight,
Though the mourning dove whistles of despair.

But at last in the thousand elegies
The dead rise in our hearts,
On the brink of our happiness we stop
Like someone on a drunk starting to weep.

6
I kneel at a pool,
I look through my face
At the bacteria I think
I see crawling through the moss.

My face sees me,
The water stirs, the face,
Looking preoccupied,
Gets knocked from its bones.

7
I weighed eleven pounds
At birth, having stayed on
Two extra weeks in the womb.
Tempted by room and fresh air
I came out big as a policeman
Blue-faced, with narrow red eyes.
It was eight days before the doctor
Would scare my mother with me.

Turning and craning in the vines
I can make out through the leaves
The old, shimmering nothingness, the sky.

8
Green, scaly moosewoods ascend,
Tenants of the shaken paradise,

At every wind last night’s rain
Comes splattering from the leaves,

It drops in flurries and lies there,
The footsteps of some running start.

9
From a rock
A waterfall,
A single trickle like a strand of wire,
Breaks into beads halfway down.

I know
The birds fly off
But the hug of the earth wraps
With moss their graves and the giant boulders.

10
In the forest I discover a flower.

The invisible life of the thing
Goes up in flames that are invisible,
Like cellophane burning in the sunlight.

It burns up. Its drift is to be nothing.

In its covertness it has a way
Of uttering itself in place of itself,
Its blossoms claim to float in the Empyrean,

A wrathful presence on the blur of the ground.

The appeal to heaven breaks off.
The petals begin to fall, in self-forgiveness.
It is a flower. On this mountainside it is dying.

IMAGE: Postcard of Mount Monadnock, located in southwestern New Hampshire. Monadnock is said to be the second most climbed mountain in the world, after Mt. Fuji. It is 3,165 feet tall and stands alone above the surrounding landscape. The term monadnock is used by American geologists to describe any isolated mountain formed from the exposure of a harder rock as a result of the erosion of softer rock once surrounding it (this landform is termed “inselberg” [“island-peak”] elsewhere in the world). (Postcard courtesy of Keene, NH, Public Library)

Flowers by the Sea by William Carlos Williams

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Flowers by the Sea
by William Carlos Williams

When over the flowery, sharp pasture’s
edge, unseen, the salt ocean

lifts its form—chicory and daisies
tied, released, seem hardly flowers alone

but color and the movement—or the shape
perhaps—of restlessness, whereas

the sea is circled and sways
peacefully upon its plantlike stem

Photo by Iewek Gnos on Unsplash

Iowa by Robbie Klein

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Iowa
by Robbie Klein

It never completely gets dark on those back roads.
There are stars, deceptively few.
And velvet consumes and velvet erupts:
the softness is the leaves and the dirt paths and stables and skin. And eyes.

The dark places, the secret places: abrupt, always, fleeting
but indelibly there, like a muscle memory.
The ridiculous and impudent course of years means nothing:
the touch is the same, the taste. Iowa’s sweet ground. I close my eyes to the
darkness and fall into it more and awake to the street disappearing into
fields and lost time.

A drive through the cemetery, a different place now
Winding up the hill marking a route in the dark with the pond
To stand breathless at the crest, arms wide open
I chart movements with a cartographer’s conscience:
throw open my shirt and open my self to the sky flawed and stitched
and whole
and welcome my mother and forgive my father and
know the slap shock of being born.

PHOTO: Deer in early morning by Pixabay, used by permission.

Kid, this is Iowa by Jeffrey Bean

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Kid, this is Iowa
by Jeffrey Bean

everything we are is here—
my dead grandmother as a girl
hunting fireflies in tiger lilies,
me throwing walnuts at gas cans
by the barn, stomping mud puddles,
my sticky hands lifting an apple
to my mouth. Here are dogwoods

and hills of corn that lead to more hills
of corn and more corn until the moon
comes up hot and my father
rattles the ice in his gin and tonic,
polishes his guitar. The horses

that dragged the lumber to build
my grandparents’ house still stomp
in the back pasture, swirl their tails
at fat, biting flies, and the sizzle of bacon
keeps waking me from my childhood
dreams: cattails snapping
their fingers, a badger’s green stare
caught in headlights, my grandfather’s
riding mower humming on the lawn,
confetti of clipped grass stuck
to his neck. The clouds here are so long

they stretch from the hidden parts of your blood
across the Atlantic to some lost place where
every ocean is healthy again, plump with whales,
and your forbears stand on cobblestones
around a barrel fire, licking
salted whitefish off their thumbs.

And here you are this morning, climbing
the wood fence I will always carry splinters from,
lifting your body into the smoke of
our leaf fire, great plumes of it reminding us
we were born to keep moving here, keep
leaving here, keep killing these fields and hills,
twisting them into smoke, then bringing them back.

PHOTO: Iowa farm horse by Josh1971, used by permission. 

Iowa City: Early April by Robert Hass

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Iowa City: Early April
by Robert Hass

This morning a cat—bright orange—pawing at the one patch of new grass in the sand-and tanbark-colored leaves.

And last night the sapphire of the raccoon’s eyes in the beam of the flashlight.
He was climbing a tree beside the house, trying to get onto the porch, I think, for a wad of oatmeal
Simmered in cider from the bottom of the pan we’d left out for the birds.

And earlier a burnished, somewhat dazed woodchuck, his coat gleaming with spring,
Loping toward his burrow in the roots of a tree among the drying winter’s litter
Of old leaves on the floor of the woods, when I went out to get the New York Times.

And male cardinals whistling back and forth—sireeep, sreeep, sreeep—
Sets of three sweet full notes, weaving into and out of each other like the triplet rhymes in medieval poetry,
And the higher, purer notes of the tufted titmice among them,
High in the trees where they were catching what they could of the early sun.

And a doe and two yearlings, picking their way along the worrying path they’d made through the gully, their coats the color of the forest floor,
Stopped just at the roots of the great chestnut where the woodchuck’s burrow was,
Froze, and the doe looked back over her shoulder at me for a long moment, and leapt forward,
Her young following, and bounded with that almost mincing precision in the landing of each hoof
Up the gully, over it, and out of sight. So that I remembered
Dreaming last night that a deer walked into the house while I was writing at the kitchen table,
Came in the glass door from the garden, looked at me with a stilled defiant terror, like a thing with no choices,
And, neck bobbing in that fragile-seeming, almost mechanical mix of arrest and liquid motion, came to the table
And snatched a slice of apple, and stood, and then quietened, and to my surprise did not leave again.

And those little captains, the chickadees, swift to the feeder and swift away.

And the squirrels with their smoke-plume tails trailing digging in the leaves to bury or find buried—
I’m told they don’t remember where they put things, that it’s an activity of incessant discovery—
Nuts, tree-fall proteins, whatever they forage from around the house of our leavings,

And the flameheaded woodpecker at the suet with his black-and-white ladderback elegant fierceness—
They take sunflower seeds and stash them in the rough ridges of the tree’s bark
Where the beaks of the smoke-and-steel blue nuthatches can’t quite get at them—
Though the nuthatches sometimes seem to get them as they con the trees methodically for spiders’ eggs or some other overwintering insect’s intricately packaged lump of futurity
Got from its body before the cold came on.

And the little bat in the kitchen lightwell—
When I climbed on a chair to remove the sheet of wimpled plastic and let it loose,
It flew straight into my face and I toppled to the floor, chair under me,
And it flared down the hall and did what seemed a frantic reconnoiter of the windowed, high-walled living room.
And lit on a brass firelog where it looked like a brown and ash
grey teenaged suede glove with Mephistophelean dreams,
And then, spurt of black sperm, up, out the window, and into the twilight woods.

All this life going on about my life, or living a life about all this life going on,
Being a creature, whatever my drama of the moment, at the edge of the raccoon’s world—
He froze in my flashlight beam and looked down, no affect, just looked,
The ringtail curled and flared to make him look bigger and not to be messed with—
I was thinking he couldn’t know how charming his comic-book robber’s mask was to me,
That his experience of his being and mine of his and his of mine were things entirely apart,
Though there were between us, probably, energies of shrewd and respectful tact, based on curiosity and fear—
I knew about his talons whatever he knew about me—
And as for my experience of myself, it comes and goes, I’m not sure it’s any one thing, as my experience of these creatures is not,
And I know I am often too far from it or too near, glad to be rid of it which is why it was such a happiness,
The bright orange of the cat, and the first pool of green grass-leaves in early April, and the birdsong—that orange and that green not colors you’d set next to one another in the human scheme.

And the crows’ calls, even before you open your eyes, at sunup.

PHOTO: Orange cat in meadow by Jody Parks, used by permission. 

Mt. Fuji by Basho

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Mt. Fuji
by Basho

Water jewels
falling into a dream,
realm of magic
Sun bumps Her forehead
on peak of Mount Fuji

PHOTO: The city of Fujiyoshida, Japan, with Mount Fuji in the background. Fujiyoshida is located about 32 miles from Mount Fuji. Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash

NOTE: Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, standing 12,389.2 feet. An active stratovolcano, Mount Fuji last erupted from 1707 to 1708. The mountain stands about 62 miles southwest of Tokyo and can be seen from there on clear days. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped for about five months of the year, is commonly used as a cultural icon of Japan. In 2013, Mt. Fuji was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site. According to UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and has been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.”

A Map of Sicily by Marie Luise Kaschnitz

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A Map of Sicily
by Marie Luise Kaschnitz

I’ll draw the outline for you. It’s a wing
From the shoulder of the victory goddess.
The side view is a chunk of rugged mountain
Arrested in the brightness of the sun,
The sea around it covering the plain
With sand and seaweed and with schools of fish.
Striated lines are for steep elevations.
The river valleys are left blank.
The toothed crown means the mountain where the wedding
Of fire and ice takes place. Move in a little
Around the table. Look, I tip the oil jug.
Wherever you see drops fall on the table
Is where the black and silver olives grow.
Wherever I drop breadcrumbs, think of crops
On the red hills, the wide range of the ploughshares.
The salt I pour, this whiteness in the east
Stands for food from the ocean, salt and fish;
The lemon wedge, a piece of the yellow moon,
For shade of arbors, sweetly scented flowers.
I’ll draw red arrows clear across the ocean,
One from the mainland, one from Africa,
One from Peloponnesus, one from Spain,
To show you the routes of foreign conquerors.
Now run out to the garden path and bring
Some small white pebbles. Don’t they look to you
Like cupolas and temples in the moonlight—
But watch, I’ll stamp my feet
And they shake and dance;
Nothing can keep from falling in an earthquake.
I’ll pull the lamp forward and push it back,
Pull it forward again. Now light. Now darkness.
Splendor and death, eternal argument.
Where is the little peasant that I kneaded
Out of a piece of bread? Still there, as always
Hands on his hoe. Bent down a little more
Than at the start. And now, what is all this?
Bread, blood and stone. A piece of the Western world.

PHOTO: Catania, Sicily, Italy, with Mt. Etna in the background. Photo by Leonid Andronov, used by permission.

NOTE: Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps, with a current height of 10,912 ft. Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and is in an almost constant state of activity. The fertile volcanic soil supports extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Things to Do Around Seattle by Gary Snyder

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Things to Do Around Seattle
by Gary Snyder

Hear phone poles hum.
Catch garter snakes. Make lizard tails fall off.
Biking to Lake Washington, see muddy little fish.
Peeling old bark off Madrone to see the clean red new bark.
Cleaning fir pitch off your hands.
Reading books in the back of the University District goodwill.
Swimming in Puget Sound below the railroad tracks.
Dig clams.
Ride the Kalakala to Bremerton.
See Mt. Constance from the water tower up by the art museum.
Fudgsicles in Woodland park zoo, the Eagle and the Camel.
The mummy Eskimo baby in the University Anthropology museum.
Hung up deep sea canoes, red cedar log.
Eating old style oatmeal mush cookt in double boiler or cracked wheat cereal with dates.
Sway in the wind in the top of the cedar in the middle of the swamp—
Walking off through the swamp and over the ridge to the pine woods.
Picking wild blackberries all around stumps.
Peeling cascara
Feeding chickens
Feeling Penelope’s udder, one teat small
Oregon grape and salal.

PHOTO: Seattle, Washington, with Mt. Rainier in the background. Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

NOTE: Mount Rainier, also known as Tahoma or Tacoma, is a large active stratovolcano in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest United States, located about 59 miles south-southeast of Seattle, Washington. With a summit elevation of 14,411 feet, it is the highest mountain in the state of Washington. With a high probability of eruption in the near future, Mt. Rainier is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world, and it is on the Decade Volcano list. 

Fairbanks Under the Solstice by John Haines

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Fairbanks Under the Solstice
by John Haines

Slowly, without sun, the day sinks
toward the close of December.
It is minus sixty degrees.

Over the sleeping houses a dense
fog rises—smoke from banked fires,
and the snowy breath of an abyss
through which the cold town
is perceptibly falling.

As if Death were a voice made visible,
with the power of illumination…

Now, in the white shadow
of those streets, ghostly newsboys
make their rounds, delivering
to the homes of those
who have died of the frost
word of the resurrection of Silence.

PHOTO: Cleary Summit, aurora viewing area, Fairbanks, Alaska. Fairbanks’ Aurora Season occurs from August 21 to April 21.  The aurora is present year-round, but can only be seen during the Aurora Season when the skies are dark enough. Photo by Tommy Tang on Unsplash.