Drawings Of The Song Animals

byDuane Niatum

Tree frog winks without springing
from its elderberry hideaway.
Before the day is buried in dusk
I will trust the crumbling earth.


Foghorns, the bleached absence
of the Cascade and Olympic mountains.
Elliott Bay sleeps in a shell of haze.
Anchorless as the night,
the blue-winged teal dredges moonlight.


Thistle plumed,
a raccoon pillages my garbage.
When did we plug its nose with concrete?
Embed its eyes in chemicals?


The Columbia Basin, a jigsaw of dams.
On the rim of a rotting barrel, a crow.
The remains of a cedar man's salmon trap
and a woman's river song of fins, each
season the current wrote the story.


Deer crossing the freeway -
mother and children of alpine meadow -
don't graze near us, don't trust our signs.
We hold your ears in our teeth,
your hoofs on our dashboards.
Believe our journey digs your grave.


Shells, gravel musings from the deep,
worm dwellers from the labyrinth.
What do you say to the crab crawling
sideways to hide in a blacker layer
of the reef? Does it really know
which family member will next vanish?


husk of winter wind
and summer's black and yellow desires.
I join your dance through the field
when the void is in bloom.


A lizard appears, startled by my basket
of blackberries. In the white stream
of the afternoon we are both lost
to the heat. Forty years
to unmask the soul!

From Drawings of the Song Animals, Holy Cow! Press.
Originally published in Songs for the Harvester of Dreams, 1981.
Seattle, revised 10/94. © 1981, 1991, 1994 Duane Niatum

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