For Ian Barnard
They are like my adolescent experience of God—
When I approach the cricket in the winter darkness
Of our house as the children sleep, it falls suddenly quiet,
The sound that made the house alive with
Creaturely blessing, a second, stronger pulse,
Reminiscent in the quality of its sound
Of an old hinge, of a quickly sharpening blade—
This dry song ends without fading—
2. Saving a Corbina
And to use the name of a species to discuss an animal—
Isn’t that a failure to speak of its radical alterity?
So great are the ethical challenges of our age
I almost need to imagine
A sort of perfect human,
Standing on the shore, fishing in the ebb-tide trough.
3. Sea Turtles
They can live for decades in the banks
Of seaweed that provide them both shelter and food,
A chosen womb, a kind of angel.
4. Rock Doves
Scholars might soon be able to bring the passenger pigeon
Back from extinction, fusing its recovered DNA into similar strands
And breeding the birds in genetically modified chickens.
In the nineteenth century they were hunted off the earth.
I am told that they once flew in clouds
Stretching for miles.
I think of the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco,
The jittery mass of them, an amazing profusion,
A clucking and bobbling shoal over the stones—
And likely each one I saw on my grand tour twenty years ago
Gone now, though the throng of them remains,
And will remain, like hope, for my daughter and my son.
I remember laughter in the back of the room when I showed a film
That described in one breath a nineteenth-century figure
As a hunter and a lover of animals.
But my father’s brother who hunted deer with an arrow and bow
Did teach me reverence for the hawk.
As we drove he gave a little gasp at an apparition in the sky—
Or more like an articulate grunt,
Laden with complex admiration and loss,
From a depth my father never conjured for me as a boy.
The raven is consumed by his blackness
The way a man can be consumed by desire.
I have known the raven to flash the sheen of his beak
In midday. I have known sexual pleasure
That could not be exceeded on this earth.
My clastic heart became a raven in the sun.
It’s the cat’s knowledge of the cellar
Why she dodges the shadows in a sunlit room.
8. Lion at the Zoo
The truth is what your body makes you say
When you see a lovely man or woman,
I wrote in a poem of my youth.
The sinewy lion, asleep twenty hours a day
Whether free or in captivity, rising from his rest
To thrill us with possibility one at a time.
Last night a historic snowstorm was anticipated
To hit New York and Boston, and I thought
Of the mentally ill homeless in those cities,
The really deranged ones who would have no idea
That they couldn’t survive a night on the streets.
The city of Boston—I know this because I researched it—
Sent workers out to find these unfortunate people
And try to save their lives.
A solitary albatross above the Pacific gyre.
Confer again under the awning.
Their history begins with water.
A mobile made of screws.
"No singing allowed at the ghost event."
Like a girlfriend,
I let the colony
To save the day,
To save the lint
From the water.
11. In a Field
And there it was, too, the gory splendor of birth, of life:
A foal slipped from her swollen mother
As my father and sister and I looked on in wonder.
Brian Glaser teaches at Chapman University in Orange, California. He received Chapman's Award for Curriculum Innovation in Sustainability Education in 2012.