Fieldbook: Three Poems

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Illustration by Fotolia/Matthew Cole
" backwards was the way we rowed her..."

Conventional publishing wisdom claims that it’s a mistake to run poetry in a “consumer” magazine. 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 three poems included in this installment of an occasional feature address material that, our editors feel, help 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.  

Rowing the Boat

No matter which oar I pulled or how I churned, battering with the oar’s end weed that clung, the skew-keeled boat merely lurched and turned widdershins like a top backwards slung, so backwards was the way we rowed her so we went out and away from what we pointed at till we arrived at the place the boat was bent and dropped our lines and panting sat while wild birds flipped in the air and dove for the same bugs the bass were rising for that we hoped to hook so that we could prove ourselves in the boat equal to birds, bugs or bass in the dark on the water where the air is black as a bat and the white stars stare.

— David Lunde

Excerpted from Sludge Gulper 1, by David Lunde Copyright 1971 by David Lunde Published by Basilisk Press and reprinted by permission.

Knob Pines

Insufficient, like all apologies,
they are the arms of the starved
dead, stiff extrusions from shallow
graves. The loggers clearcut first,
then planted these excuses and left.

We watch the knob pines wave; even
the fog moving inland is enough
to make them sway: their defeated
roots gnarl around too little clay,
and they fall, unhonored, into bone

yards of themselves, making a low,
tangled sky, the last landscape
of snakes. Heavy with their resinous
cones, the knob pines hold each other
and conspire; their only wish is fire.

If fire were to rise from the crotch
of the hill; if fire were to suck life
out of air like a slow, red mouth; if
fire unsprung these cones into glowing
seed, the dead could rise after.

We make large, decisive noises
against the resurrection of these trees,
and listen, at noon, to their silence.

— David Swanger

Reprinted with permission ofPoetryNorthwest (Spring 1984 Vol. XXV. No.1) and the poet.

The Wall

The cliff-house stood in ruins
   a few crumbling bricks piled against time
We tried to scale the canyon wall
   to reach the homes where no flesh sings.
But Vibram soles just won’t work
   on the polished rock
of Anasazi trail.

— Leonard Bird

Excerpted from River of Lost Souls. Copyright© 1977 by Leonard Bird Publishes by Tooth of Time Press and reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Submissions to Fieldbook are welcomed. However, please take the time to look over what we’ve published. If you can’t honestly say you can equal or better that body of work, don’t send us anything.Furthermore, all unsolicited submissions should be sent without self-addressed, stamped envelopes and should be addressed specifically toFieldbook. We won’t be returning or commenting on unused poems. Only those acceptedfor publication will be acknowledged.