Maxine Silverman

We shall not speak of the flood, nor allude
to the almost familiar ridge line,
our gate hanging by a single hinge.  So

charged, each of us turns his/her vision in-
stead to the near stand of trees, bright ringing
words—elemental, those we make use of—
watershed, groundswell, bedrock, well spring, and

of course there are others: hearthstone, causeway—
peopled words.  Consider understory.

Ferns, moss, lichen, and their fossil remains.

Nuthatches appear to understand chickadee—
seet seet (again, softly) seet for a hawk,
owl or falcon on the wing. Chick-a-dee-dee-dee
for a predator perched nearby, seven
or even twelve more dees, variations
on the threat, tonal, encoded meanings.
Really?  You thought they sang for our pleasure?

Maps of lost worlds
Cultures more ancient than
more encoded than
before the iron relics of
or calendars

Earth is its own alphabet.
Glyphs of birds,
of continents and seas,

pentimento of seasons      weathers       traces
tracks of creatures dragging their bodies, glistening,
on fin-feet,
                      gills beating instinctually, wildly—


As I said: understory or

the lone ivory billed woodpecker
sighted in a swamp, the Grail Bird caught
on grainy video tape,

the Grail Bird, the “Lord God!”

For fishes water is not a surface
homeground   their prairie.
(O say can you hear) bark, chatter,
chirp, plink, groan, drone, cry, 

language of need and pleasure—
in mating season the Black Drum booms
and in channels of the Gulfstream
   Toadfish drone loud, fast,
three times the wingbeat of hummingbirds

and choristers of dolphin
and if they pray
is it for rain?

if their bodies thirst
their souls must too

O the sea below the heavens above
and the ponds between—

light metallic tzicketa tzicketa tzicke
spring peepers spooning by moonlight,
a screen of small dark ecstasies—


Download the PDF of this article here: Silverman

Leave a Reply