1. October

    O hushed October morning mild,
    Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
    Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
    Should waste them all.
    The crows above the forest call;
    Tomorrow they may form and go.
    O hushed October morning mild,
    Begin the hours of this day slow.
    Make the day seem to us less brief.
    Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
    Beguile us in the way you know.
    Release one leaf at break of day;
    At noon release another leaf;
    One from our trees, one far away.
    Retard the sun with gentle mist;
    Enchant the land with amethyst.
    Slow, slow!
    For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
    Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
    Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
    For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

    By Robert Frost.

  2. A Small Story about the Sky

    The fire was so fierce,
    So red, so gray, so yellow
    That, along with the land,
    It burned part of the sky
    Which stayed black in that corner
    For years,
    As if it were night there
    Even in the daytime,
    A piece of the sky burnt
    And which then
    Could not be counted on
    Even by the birds.

    It was a regular fire—
    Terrible—we forget this
    About fire—terrible
    And full of pride.
    It intended to be
    Big, no regular fire.
    Like so many of us,
    It intended to be more
    And this time was.
    It was not better or worse
    Than any other fire
    Growing up.
    But this time, it was a fire
    At just the right time
    And in just the right place—
    If you think like a fire—
    A place it could do something big.

    Its flames reached out
    With ten thousand pincers,
    As if the fire
    Were made of beetles and scorpions
    Clawing themselves to get up,
    Pinching the air itself
    And climbing,
    So many sharp animals
    On each other’s backs
    Then into the air itself,
    Ten thousand snaps and pinches
    At least,
    So that if the sky
    Was made of something,
    It could not get away this time.

    Finally the fire
    Caught the sky,
    Which acted like a slow rabbit
    Which had made a miscalculation.
    It didn’t believe this could happen
    And so it ran left,
    Right into the thin toothpicks of flames,
    Too fast to pull back,
    The sky with all its arms,
    Hands, fingers, fingernails,
    All of it

    The sky stayed black
    For several years after.
    I wanted to tell you
    This small story
    About the sky.
    It’s a good one
    And explains why the sky
    Comes so slowly in the morning,
    Still unsure of what’s here.
    But the story is not mine.
    It was written by fire,
    That same small fire
    That wanted to come home
    With something of its own
    To tell,
    And it did,
    A small piece of blue in its mouth.

    By Alberto Ríos.

  3. Family Garden

    Tell me again about your garden
    Tell me how you planted, in the small
    flat of mountain land, corn seed

    and bean seed, how your finger poked the soil
    then you dropped in three dark bean seeds
    for every yellow seed of corn.

    Trees and mountains collared your land,
    but the fenced garden opened freely
    to sun and warm summer rains.

    Your potato rows bulged in July. You ached
    from digging them up, your hands down in dirt,
    the cool lump of a tuber, brown-spotted,

    just recovered, a greeting, like shaking hands.
    Baskets full of bumpy brown potatoes filled
    your basement until fall, until you gave

    away what you could, throwing out the rest.
    You gave away honey from the white hive too,
    that box of bees beside the garden,

    honey stored in Mason jars, a clearest honey
    nectar from lin tree blossoms and wild flowers.
    The bright taste of honey on the tongue

    spoke of the place, if a place can be known
    by the activity of bees and a flavor in the mouth,
    if a person can be known by small acts

    such as these, such as the way you rocked
    summer evenings from a chair on the porch
    tending your inner garden, eyes closed.

  4. Lighthead’s Guide to the Galaxy

    Ladies and gentlemen, ghosts and children of the state,
    I am here because I could never get the hang of Time.
    This hour, for example, would be like all the others
    were it not for the rain falling through the roof.
    I’d better not be too explicit. My night is careless
    with itself, troublesome as a woman wearing no bra
    in winter. I believe everything is a metaphor for sex.
    Lovemaking mimics the act of departure, moonlight
    drips from the leaves. You can spend your whole life
    doing no more than preparing for life and thinking.
    “Is this all there is?” Thus, I am here where poets come
    to drink a dark strong poison with tiny shards of ice,
    something to loosen my primate tongue and its syllables
    of debris. I know all words come from preexisting words
    and divide until our pronouncements develop selves.
    The small dog barking at the darkness has something to say
    about the way we live. I’d rather have what my daddy calls
    “skrimp.” He says “discrete” and means the street
    just out of sight. Not what you see, but what you perceive:
    that’s poetry. Not the noise, but its rhythm; an arrangement
    of derangements; I’ll eat you to live: that’s poetry.
    I wish I glowed like a brown-skinned pregnant woman.
    I wish I could weep the way my teacher did as he read us
    Molly Bloom’s soliloquy of yes. When I kiss my wife,
    sometimes I taste her caution. But let’s not talk about that.
    Maybe Art’s only purpose is to preserve the Self.
    Sometimes I play a game in which my primitive craft fires
    upon an alien ship whose intention is the destruction
    of the earth. Other times I fall in love with a word
    like somberness. Or moonlight juicing naked branches.
    All species have a notion of emptiness, and yet
    the flowers don’t quit opening. I am carrying the whimper
    you can hear when the mouth is collapsed, the wisdom
    of monkeys. Ask a glass of water why it pities
    the rain. Ask the lunatic yard dog why it tolerates the leash.
    Brothers and sisters, when you spend your nights
    out on a limb, there’s a chance you’ll fall in your sleep.

    By Terrance Hayes

  5. In Blackwater Woods

    Look, the trees
    are turning
    their own bodies
    into pillars

    of light,
    are giving off the rich
    fragrance of cinnamon
    and fulfillment,

    the long tapers
    of cattails
    are bursting and floating away over
    the blue shoulders

    of the ponds,
    and every pond,
    no matter what its
    name is, is

    nameless now.
    Every year
    I have ever learned

    in my lifetime
    leads back to this: the fires
    and the black river of loss
    whose other side

    is salvation,
    whose meaning
    none of us will ever know.
    To live in this world

    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it

    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.

    By Mary Oliver.

  6. International Hour of Prayer for the Yellowstone Buffalo Herd

    Noon, March 6, 1997

    From morning’s mouth
    the bones emerge,
    a prayer is whispered
    over rounded horns;
    the prairie is beyond
    the quivering hump
    and holy smoke sparkles
    released in the breath.
    Braided sweetgrass,
    be about their hooves;
    although the grip of hunger
    lies heavy on the land,
    let endless native grasses grow
    among the yellow stones
    and between the stars.
    Even if only one man had
    begun to sing, actually
    it was thousands, She who came
    to Wisconsin farmers
    and transformed their lives,
    She who brought her blessing
    in the form of being newborn,
    She whom they named the Miracle,
    White Buffalo Calf Maiden must return
    amid the fast firing of bullets, along
    the most perilous of paths. Rock stars,
    millionaires, they all offered millions of dollars
    to struggling white farmers
    but she had begun her transformation and her prophecy
    by touching them and they came to understand
    if not the actual words to the prayers
    at least the reverence, the need
    to protect, to keep the doors open.
    Like it was a hundred years ago
    bounties are gathered from death;
    trains, buses, cars, planes
    carry the segmented body of the terrible worm
    across the land and the screams of the hunted
    split the sun awake. It is time to restore
    the stolen beads and shards,
    the bones and knives to every grave.
    And the graves are graves no longer but wombs;
    the bounties burn their hands
    and bones come flowing
    from museum shelves
    to dance in the rippling grass,
    rebuilding lungs, starting hearts.
    There must be a hundred men
    and a hundred men’s worth
    of heartlessness; wished they could find
    Indians to kill but now that is illegal
    so they make up some excuse
    to raise their rifles and take aim,
    not hearing the rumble
    of buffalo prayer, not feeling
    tomorrow tremble
    or the prophecy of Miracle,
    and smile as they see the legs give way,
    the horns gouge open the prairie ground,
    Earth betrayed again.

    By Wendy Rose.

  7. Hawk Roosting

    Hawk Roosting
    I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
    Inaction, no falsifying dream
    Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
    Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.

    The convenience of the high trees!
    The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray
    Are of advantage to me;
    And the earth’s face upward for my inspection.

    My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
    It took the whole of Creation
    To produce my foot, my each feather:
    Now I hold Creation in my foot

    Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly -
    I kill where I please because it is all mine.
    There is no sophistry in my body:
    My manners are tearing off heads -

    The allotment of death.
    For the one path of my flight is direct
    Through the bones of the living.
    No arguments assert my right:

    The sun is behind me.
    Nothing has changed since I began.
    My eye has permitted no change.
    I am going to keep things like this.

    By Ted Hughes

  8. Joy in the Woods

    There is joy in the woods just now,
    The leaves are whispers of song,
    And the birds make mirth on the bough
    And music the whole day long,
    And God! to dwell in the town
    In these springlike summer days,
    On my brow an unfading frown
    And hate in my heart always—

    A machine out of gear, aye, tired,
    Yet forced to go on—for I’m hired.

    Just forced to go on through fear,
    For every day I must eat
    And find ugly clothes to wear,
    And bad shoes to hurt my feet
    And a shelter for work-drugged sleep!
    A mere drudge! but what can one do?
    A man that’s a man cannot weep!
    Suicide? A quitter? Oh, no!

    But a slave should never grow tired,
    Whom the masters have kindly hired.

    But oh! for the woods, the flowers
    Of natural, sweet perfume,
    The heartening, summer showers
    And the smiling shrubs in bloom,
    Dust-free, dew-tinted at morn,
    The fresh and life-giving air,
    The billowing waves of corn
    And the birds’ notes rich and clear:—

    For a man-machine toil-tired
    May crave beauty too—though he’s hired.

    by Claude McKay.

  9. Redwing Blackbird

    Feet firmly perch
    thinnest stalks, reeds, bulrush.
    Until all at once, they attend my
    female form, streaked throat, brownness.

    Three fly equidistant
    around me, flashing.
    Each, in turn, calls territorial
    trills, beckons ok-a-li, ok-a-li!

    Spreads his wings, extends
    inner muscle quivering red
    epaulet bands uniquely bolden.

    Turn away each suitor,
    mind myself my audience.
    Select another to consider,
    He in turn quiver thrills.

    Leave for insects.
    Perhaps one male follows.
    Maybe a few brood of young,
    line summertime.

    Silver Maple samaras
    wing wind, spread clusters
    along with mine, renewing Prairie.

    As summer closes, I leave
    dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies,
    mosquitoes, moths, spiders, crickets for

    grain, see, Sunflower;
    join thousands to flock Sky—
    grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds, starlings—
    Swarming like distant smoke clouds, rising.

    By Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

  10. Tree Marriage

    In Chota Nagpur and Bengal
    the betrothed are tied with threads to
    mango trees, they marry the trees
    as well as one another, and
    the two trees marry each other.
    Could we do that some time with oaks
    or beeches? This gossamer we
    hold each other with, this web
    of love and habit is not enough.
    In mistrust of heavier ties,
    I would like tree-siblings for us,
    standing together somewhere, two
    trees married with us, lightly, their
    fingers barely touching in sleep,
    our threads invisible but holding.

    By William Meredith