What the Blue Jay Says

IMG_4905

WHAT THE BLUE JAY SAYS

 

All morning snow—like

nothing but snow—

falling on snow.

 

The Blue Jay does not compare itself

to the Cardinal.

It sees red.

It sees blue.

 

It fears nothing—

not silence, not darkness, not even

nothing.

 

Feathers fallen on new snow

are buried in new snow. Snow

on the Blue Jay, alert

in the sleeping lilac.

 

Silence, like the water snow becomes,

evaporates into clouds.

In spring it falls between raindrops.

This is the sound of flowers.

 

The Blue Jay has always known this.

It keeps trying to tell you—

all day shouting and shouting.

Listen, it says. Listen.

Late November in a Field, by James Wright

This is one of my favorite poems and I always take it out this time of year to read a few times, so I am sharing it here. It is bleak but it is also a poem of Thanksgiving.

LATE NOVEMBER IN A FIELD

Today I am walking alone in a bare place,
And winter is here.
Two squirrels near a fence post
Are helping each other drag a branch
Toward a hiding place; it must be somewhere
Behind those ash trees.
They are still alive, they ought to save acorns
Against the cold.
Frail paws rifle the throughs between cornstalks when the moon
Is looking away.
The earth is hard now,
The soles of my shoes need repairs.
I have nothing to ask a blessing for,
Except these words.
I wish they were
Grass.

October Ice

My good friend Scott has a birthday today. Here is one for him.

 

OCTOBER ICE

 

I stepped off the train in Rock Springs

hours before we had planned to meet.

The air smelled of rain falling

but not reaching the ground. I wandered

among dust until dark, until everything

but the bars closed. Scott was late, then

hunched over the Volvo’s wheel as he drove

past me on the curb. When he stepped around

to the passenger seat I drove us into a night

already ripening into tomorrow.

We headed north, both of us taciturn.

Grass and sage stretched east and west.

Beyond them in the dark the Wind Rivers rose.

The predators–bears, wolves, coyotes–had been shot

or fenced out, so rabbits had the run of the place.

They dashed through our headlights, the pavement

bumpy with their crushed bodies. I sucked in my breath

at the smack and crunch of quick death.

We agreed to sleep under the stars

and the aspens at the Eden cemetery,

outside town. A warm wind blew

over tilted tombstones and the weathered

stockade fence. We cocooned ourselves

in sleeping bags on the dusty ground.

While we slept the air froze. Death

surrounded us all night, our trip

just beginning. Ahead of us

were scuffed boots and several pitches

before we reached any clear view.

We carried a list of adventures and futures

we couldn’t imagine. The ghosts of settlers and nomads

whispered lessons the dead learn when they leave

their bodies to the earth. The words stiffened

in the cold air, drifted with the scent of sage,

wrapped the fence, the stones with blankets of ice.

We lay in the moments before shadows,

reviewing frame by frame what might come,

then lifted our bags and scattered frost

into the dust. When wind rubbed smooth

our tracks, these fragile crystals would melt,

moisten grass and bits of fur

and the remnants of bones. These blades of ice,

pulled from October air, would rise, fall

again and settle in sedimentary cracks.

With the patience of ice they would push down

stone after stone from the peaks the morning light

had just begun to warm with the scent of day.