At the Frontier


The blackbird sings at
the frontier of his music.
The branch where he sat


marks the brink of doubt,
is the outpost of his realm,
edge from which to rout


encroachers with trills
and melismatic runs sur-
passing earthbound skills.


It sounds like ardor,
it sounds like joy. We are glad
here at the border


where he signs the air
with his invisible staves,
“Trespassers beware”—


Song as survival—
a kind of pure music which
we cannot rival.

– A.E. Stallings, “Blackbird Etude”



In the past

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
from “Closing Time” by Dan Wilson


Good morrow

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.   

The dark wheat listens.

Be still.


There they are, the moon’s young, trying

Their wings.

Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow

Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone

Wholly, into the air.

I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe

Or move.

I listen.

The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,

And I lean toward mine.

– James Wright


Keeping It Simple

I take the bird on the woodpile,
separate it from its function, feather
by feather. I blow up its scale.
I make a whole life out of it:
everywhere I am, its sense of loitering
lights on my shoulder.
– Mary Ruefle


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