Wednesday, December 8, 2010



As a child running loose,

I said it this way: Bird.

Bird, a startled sound at field's edge.

The sound my mouth makes, pushing away the cold.

So, at the end of this quiet afternoon,

wanting to write the love poems I've never written,

I turn from the shadow in the cottonwood

and say blackbird, as if to you.

There is the blackbird. Black bird
, until its darkness

is the darkness of a woman's hair falling

across my upturned face.

And I go on speaking into the night.

The oriole, the flicker,

the gold finch. . . .

This is a new version of a classic book of poems — narrow spine, not so many pages, and every poem to remember. Atheneum first published the collection in the early 70s when it won the Lamont Poetry Prize in 1972. If it hadn't been for the re-issue, the book was on its way to disappearing. Many have, many fine ones.

It's our job to pull things back.

Peter Everwine was born in Detroit, raised in western Pennslyvania, educated in the midwest, and settled down for decades in California. When not writing his own poems he is translating from Hebrew and interpretations from Nahuatl.



Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,

looking for God knows what.

Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.

Something to fill an empty spot.

Maybe a luminous angel

or country girl with a secret dark.

He came back empty-handed,

or so I thought.

Now I find them:

thistles, goatheads

the barbed weeds

all those with hooks or horns

the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones

those wearing lantern jaws

old ones in beards

leapers in silk leggins

the multiple pocked moons

and spiny satellites, all those

with juices and saps

like the fingers of thieves

nation after nation of grasses

that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds

and grab handholds

in whatever lean place.

It's been a good day.


In the poem that comes just before sleep,

I am walking out into

the darkness of summer fields,

drawing it close about me.

What I wanted to say

was the silence of olive groves,

the longing of a road white with dust.

I speak an old language, love —

the fields rising and falling,

the small beards of light

nodding over the earth.

I am entering your hair,

coming home.


The doctor smiles and comes toward me.

In a room so pure I can hardly breathe,

he opens my robe and touches the fragile

bones of my wings. "I'm glad you've come," he says

and I know I'm sick.

Something is wrong with me upstairs.

A neighbor's mouth tears like a wound, so dark

I think of a spring cupped in black roots.

The phone rings and another village is burning.

My head dreams of escaping into white stone.

"It's almost painless," he says, hiding

his hand behind his blue coat.

Only I can't see him clearly.

When I squint he seems to be

my father sidling through the halls of banks,

he is a bruised face, he is the President,

the drifting blue haze of factories,

of my own breath hovering over me.

I reach to touch him, but my fingers

enter and pass through —

he blossoms around them in a red flower of light,

petal after petal of light opens out:

I'm a window looking into a backyard.

Some men are digging what looks like a grave,

about the size of a child's.


In the lamplight falling

on the white tablecloth

my plate,

my shining loaf of quietness.

I sit down.

Through the open door

all the absent I love enter

and we eat.

(from the meadow: selected and new poems)



Let the earth last

And the forests stand a long time

Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin said this, traveling

The road to Tlaxcala

The road to Huexotzinco

Let field after field

Unfold with brown corn

Flowers of cacao

Let the earth last


We live in the country where things go away

Is it like this

In that country the dead wander?

Are some happy there

Among old friends?

Or is it here only that passing a face

We look into it

And speak its name?

( translated by PE from "The Aztec Poems" )

from Collecting the Animals
Peter Everwine
Atheneum, 1972