Conventional publishing wisdom claims that it's a mistake to run poetry in a "consumer" magazine. However, although that may often be true, we're convinced that MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers are the kind of people who look for beauty in the practical and search out practicality in the beautiful . . . and who realize that good poetry can be useful as well as inspiring. In fact, the best of poems can help us recognize the wonderful—and often well-hidden—similarities that all humans share . . . and by doing so, can make each of us feel a little bit less alone. The poetry included in this occasional feature—be it brand new or previously published, written by a recognized poet or a first-timer—will be material that, in the eyes of MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors, helps us see ourselves in the words of others. It's that quality, and the fact that the work presented here will reflect the range of subject areas usually presented in this magazine, that gave this feature its name: Fieldbook.
Deer Among Cattle
Here and there in the searing beam
Of my hand going through the night meadow
They all are grazing
With pins of human light in their eyes.
A wild one also is eating
The human grass,
Slender, graceful, domesticated
By darkness, among the bred-
Having bounded their paralyzed fence
And inclined his branched forehead onto
Their green frosted table,
The only live thing in this flashlight
Who can leave whenever he wishes,
Turn grass into forest,
Foreclose inhuman brightness from his eyes
But stands here still, unperturbed,
In their wide-open country,
The sparks from my hand in his pupils
Unmatched anywhere among cattle,
Grazing with them the night of the hammer
As one of their own who shall rise.
Excerpted from James Dickey: Poems 1957-1967. Copyright by James Dickey. Published by Wesleyan University Press and reprinted by permission.
A Maul for Bill and Cindy's Wedding
Swung from the toes out,
Belly-breath riding on the knuckles,
The ten-pound maul lifts up,
Sails in an arc overhead,
And then lifts you!
It floats, you float,
For an instant of clear far sight—
Eye on the crack in the end-grain
Angle of the oak round
Stood up to wait to be split.
The maul falls—with a sigh—the wood
and lies twain—
In a wink. As the maul
Splits all, may
You two stay together.
Excerpted from Axe Handles: Poems by Gary Snyder. Copyright 1983 by Gary Snyder. Published by North Point Press and reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It Is Air to Us
In the castles of weed the fish stroke their sides
together sparking silver in the dark water;
white eyes stare, mosquitoes skitter,
the night goes on inexorable as strung beads;
incredible hunger fills the flat water,
insatiable as chimneys, closer than tree-bark;
beneath the bobber our limp lines finger
the shallow, moving at a worm's slow crawl,
till they pulse like blood and stiffen, bringing their
gut-hooked catch still swallowing in, and all
our deep experience of slaughter
will not tell us how to tell them that the dark
that chokes them is our natural habitat:
that death is the air we breathe, and only that.
Excerpted from Sludge Gulper 1 by David Lunde. Copyright 1971 by David Lunde. Published by Basilisk Press and reprinted by permission.