It’s National Poetry Month. Once each year, various institutions gather together to confer worth on poetry and fish it out from under the bed to be held in the light. Once each year, poets feel a little less irrelevant when they don’t know how to claim royalties on their taxes.
Poetry is the horse that just can’t be reliably ridden. Near my home is a field that contains three black horses. I admire the way that they choose to group themselves, sometimes two together with one astray, sometimes all three heads down near the tree line, but never singly spread out. Maybe poetry isn’t a horse. Maybe poetry is the field in which the horses stand. Or maybe poetry is the combination of horses and the composition they make against the scrape of thin spring snow.
This morning, I was completing my matins, reading from The Winter Sun: Notes on a Vocation by Fanny Howe, when I stumbled upon this following line: The weather people admitted they could only really predict three days ahead and then they entered into the zone of probability and unknown influence.
Each day, we live in that zone of probability and unknown influence. But poets romance the unknown influence, rather than the business suit of probability. Show a poet two paths through the woods, and, yeah, they’ll choose the lesser traveled one because who the hell wants to write about the path the rest of the world has plowed down?
And yet, the children still need to get to school and that may mean driving down a road populated by nail salons and fast food joints. The poet, like a magpie, is looking for the scrap of shine out of place, the red shirt flapping against the chain-link fence. Sometimes it is only the first week of thaw when the snowbanks, driveways, and everything else is a uniform grey under an unrelentingly pale sky.
It’s all connected. My partner finds two dead songbirds alongside the road he runs on. I can hear Fritz Creek roaring along its way again, now that the season is liquid. A student tells me that all of his brothers and sisters are drug addicts and only he is clean. A friend is playing music again, after a long silence. Maybe once a month, there are sirens on the road coming from both directions, meeting someplace unfortunate.
Under my fingertips, the pages of Trophic Cascade by Camille Dungy. (You need this collection because it is so damn good.)
After the reintroduction of gray wolves
to Yellowstone and, as anticipated, their culling
of deer, trees grew beyond the deer stunt
of the midcentury. In their up reach
songbirds nested, who scattered
seed for underbrush, and in that cover
warrened snowshoe hare. Weasel and water shrew
returned, also vole, and so came soon hawk
and falcon, bald eagle, kestrel, and with them
hawk shadow, falcon shadow. Eagle shade
and kestrel shade haunted newly berried
runnels where deer no longer rummaged, cautious
as they were, now, of being surprised by wolves.Berries
brought bear, while undergrowth and willows, growing
now right down to the river, brought beavers,
who dam. Muskrats came to the dams, and tadpoles.
Came, too, the night song of the fathers
of tadpoles. With water striders, the dark
gray American dipper bobbed in fresh pools
of the river, and fish stayed, and the bear, who
fished, also culled deer fawns and to their kill scraps
came vulture and coyote, long gone in the region
until now, and their scat scattered seed, and more
trees, brush, and berries grew up along the river
that had run straight and so flooded but thus dammed,
compelled to meander, is less prone to overrun. Don’t
you tell me this is not the same as my story. All this
life born from one hungry animal, this whole,
new landscape, the course of the river changed,
I know this. I reintroduced myself to myself, this time
a mother. After which, nothing was ever the same.