passenger pigeons


Passenger Pigeons

Robinson Jeffers

Slowly the passenger pigeons increased, then suddenly their numbers
Became enormous, they would flatten ten miles of forest
When they flew down to roost, and the cloud of their rising
Eclipsed the dawns. They became too many, they are all dead
Not one remains.
And the American bison: their hordes
Would hide a prairie from horizon to horizon, great heads and storm-cloud shoulders, a torrent of life –
How many are left? For a time, for a few years, their bones
Turned the dark prairies white.
You, Death, you watch for these things.
These explosions of life: they are your food.
They make your feasts.
But turn your great rolling eyes
away from humanity
Those grossly craving black eyes. It is true we increase.
A man from Britain landing in Gaul when Rome
had fallen
He journeyed fourteen days inland through that beautiful
Rich land, the orchards and rivers and the looted villas: he reports he saw
No living man. But now we fill the gaps.
In spite of wars, famines and pestilences we are quite suddenly
Three billion people: our bones, ours too, would make
Wide prairies white, a beautiful snow of unburied bones:
Bones that have twitched and quivered in the nights of love,
Bones that have shaken with laughter and hung slack
in sorrow, coward bones
Worn out with trembling, strong bones broken on the rack,
bones broken in battle,
Broad bones gnarled with hard labor, and the little bones
of sweet young children, and the white empty skulls,
Little carved ivory wine-jugs that used to contain
Passion and thought and love and insane delirium, where now
Not even worms live
Respect humanity, Death, these
shameless black eyes of yours,
It is not necessary to take all at once – besides that,
you cannot do it, we are too powerful,
We are men, not pigeons; you may take the old, the useless
and helpless, the cancer-bitten and the tender young,
But the human race has still history to make. For look – look now
At our achievements: we have bridled the cloud-leaper lightning,
a lion whipped by a man, to carry our messages
And work our will, we have snatched the thunderbolt
Out of God’s hands. Ha? That was little and last year –
for now we have taken
The primal powers, creation and annihilation; we make
new elements, such as God never saw,
We can explode atoms and annul the fragments, nothing left
but pure energy, we shall use it
In peace and war – “Very clever,” he answered in his thin piping voice,
Cruel and a eunuch.
Roll those idiot black eyes of yours
On the field-beasts, not on intelligent man,
We are not in your order. You watched the dinosaurs
Grow into horror: they had been little elves in the ditches
and presently became enormous with leaping flanks
And tearing teeth, plated with armor, nothing could
stand against them, nothing but you,
Death, and they died. You watched the sabre-tooth tigers
Develop those huge fangs, unnecessary as our sciences,
and presently they died. You have their bones
In the oil-pits and layer rock, you will not have ours.
With pain and wonder and labor we have bought intelligence.
We have minds like the tusks of those forgotten tigers,
. hypertrophied and terrible,
We have counted the stars and half-understood them,
we have watched the farther galaxies fleeing away
from us, wild herds
Of panic horses – or a trick of distance deceived by the prism –
we outfly falcons and eagles and meteors,
Faster than sound, higher than the nourishing air;
we have enormous privilege, we do not fear you,
We have invented the jet-plane and the death-bomb
and the cross of Christ – “Oh,” he said, “surely
You’ll live forever” – grinning like a skull, covering his mouth
with his hand – “What could exterminate you?”

house on stilts



Bella Dizhur

Here is an island. Here is a house on stilts.
A black log house,
With a window open wide.
Green waves wash up to it,
But no one lives inside,
Not for many years.
Only I live here,
Drying seaweed
To cook for meals,
And I have lived for thousands of years.
But there where I used to live,
Where they used to love me,
They think that I have died,
They mourned and then forgot me.
But I live on and on …
under the thundering green,
I call my friends to meals
on a voiceless telephone.

-Белла Дижур

Вот остров. Вот дом на сваях.

Черный бревенчатый дом

С раскрытым настежь окном.

Зеленые волны его омывают,

Но в нем никто не живет

Вот уж который год.

Лишь я одна здесь живу,

Сушу морскую траву,

Варю из нее обед

И мне уже тысячи лет.

А там, где я раньше жила,

Где раньше меня любили,

Решили, что я умерла,

Оплакали и позабыли.

А я все живу и живу…

Под грохот волны зеленой

Друзей на обед зову

По оглохшему телефону.

Photo by Guillaume Baudusseau on Unsplash

the testing tree


The Testing Tree
Stanley Kunitz


On my way home from school
   up tribal Providence Hill
      past the Academy ballpark
where I could never hope to play
   I scuffed in the drainage ditch
      among the sodden seethe of leaves
hunting for perfect stones
   rolled out of glacial time
      into my pitcher's hand;
then sprinted lickety-
   split on my magic Keds
      from a crouching start,
scarcely touching the ground
   with my flying skin
      as I poured it on
for the prize of the mastery
   over that stretch of road,
      with no one no where to deny
when I flung myself down
   that on the given course
      I was the world's fastest human.


Around the bend
   that tried to loop me home
      dawdling came natural
across a nettled field
   riddled with rabbit-life
      where the bees sank sugar-wells
in the trunks of the maples
   and a stringy old lilac
      more than two stories tall
blazing with mildew
   remembered a door in the 
      long teeth of the woods.
All of it happened slow:
   brushing the stickseed off,
      wading through jewelweed
strangled by angel's hair,
   spotting the print of the deer
      and the red fox's scats.
Once I owned the key
   to an umbrageous trail
      thickened with mosses
where flickering presences
   gave me right of passage
      as I followed in the steps
of straight-backed Massassoit
   soundlessly heel-and-toe
      practicing my Indian walk.


Past the abandoned quarry
   where the pale sun bobbed
      in the sump of the granite,
past copperhead ledge,
   where the ferns gave foothold,
      I walked, deliberate,
on to the clearing,
   with the stones in my pocket
      changing to oracles
and my coiled ear tuned
   to the slightest leaf-stir.
      I had kept my appointment.
There I stood in the shadow,
   at fifty measured paces,
      of the inexhaustible oak,
tyrant and target,
   Jehovah of acorns,
      watchtower of the thunders,
that locked King Philip's War
   in its annulated core
      under the cut of my name.
Father wherever you are
    I have only three throws
       bless my good right arm.
In the haze of afternoon,
   while the air flowed saffron,
      I played my game for keeps--
for love, for poetry,
   and for eternal life--
      after the trials of summer.


In the recurring dream
   my mother stands
      in her bridal gown
under the burning lilac,
   with Bernard Shaw and Bertie
      Russell kissing her hands;
the house behind her is in ruins;
   she is wearing an owl's face
      and makes barking noises.
Her minatory finger points.
   I pass through the cardboard doorway
      askew in the field
and peer down a well
   where an albino walrus huffs.
      He has the gentlest eyes.
If the dirt keeps sifting in,
   staining the water yellow,
      why should I be blamed?
Never try to explain.
   That single Model A
      sputtering up the grade
unfurled a highway behind
   where the tanks maneuver,
      revolving their turrets.
In a murderous time
   the heart breaks and breaks
      and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
   through dark and deeper dark
      and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
   Where is my testing-tree?
      Give me back my stones!


love is not all

Love is Not All
Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain; 
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink 
And rise and sink and rise and sink again; 
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath, 
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone; 
Yet many a man is making friends with death 
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone. 
It well may be that in a difficult hour, 
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release, 
Or nagged by want past resolution's power, 
I might be driven to sell your love for peace, 
Or trade the memory of this night for food. 
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash



I only go back to where I was raised to celebrate
or mourn. It is getting hard to tell the difference between
funerals and weddings. Laughing and crying look the
same from a distance. There are long meaningful
embraces at both. I wear the same suit,

only the tie changes. We raise the first glass of the night
to a memory no matter what. The only difference?
Whether or not there will be fewer of us next time.

Photo by Ramiro Pianarosa on Unsplash



Laura Kasischke

Like a twentieth-century dream of Europe—all
horrors, and pastries—some part of me, for all time
stands in a short skirt in a hospital cafeteria line, with a tray, while

in another glittering tower named
for the world’s richest man
my mother, who is dying, never dies.

with one wing
in Purgatory, flying in circles.)

I wake up decades later, having dreamt I was crying.
My alarm clock seconds away
from its own alarm.

I wake up to its silence
every morning
at the same hour. The daughter
of the owner of the laundromat
has washed my sheets in tears

and the soldiers marching across some flowery field in France
bear their own soft pottery in their arms—heart, lung, abdomen.

And the orderlies and the nurses and their clattering
carts roll on and on. In a tower. In a cloud. In a cafeteria line.

See, cold spy for time, who needs you now?

Photo by Yaniv Knobel on Unsplash

having no mind


Having No Mind for the Same Poem
Fleur Adcock

Not for the same conversation again and again.
But the power of meditation to cure an allergy,
that I will discuss
cross-legged on the lawn at evening
midges flittering, a tree beside us
none of us can name;
and rocks, a scent of syringa;
certain Japanese questions; the journey…

Not for parody.

Nor, if we come to it, for the same letter:
‘hard to believe…I remember best his laugh…
such a vigorous man…please tell…’
and running, almost running to stuff coins
into the box for cancer research.

The others.

Nor for the same hopeless prayer.

Photo by Petra Klapka on Unsplash



Elfriede Jelinek

april breath
of  boyish red
the tongue crushes
strawberry dreams
                                  hack away wound
                                  and wound the fountain
and on the mouth
perspiration white
from someone’s neck
a little tooth
has bit the finger
of  the bride the
                                  tabby yellow and sere
the red boy
from the gable flies
an animal hearkens
in his white throat
                                  his juice runs down
                                  pigeon thighs
a pale sweet spike
still sticks
in woman white
an april breath
of boyish red


Photo by Isaac Quesada on Unsplash