In the night, in the wind, at the edge of the rain,
I find five irises, and call them lovely.
As if a woman, once, lay by them awhile,
then woke, rose, went, the memory of hair
lingers on their sweet tongues.

I´d like to tear these petals with my teeth.
I´d like to investigate these hairy selves,
their beauty and indifference. They hold
their breath all their lives
and open, open.


We are not lovers, not brother and sister,
though we drift hand and hand throught a hall
thrilling and burning as thought and desire
expire, and, over this dream of life,
this life of sleep, we waken dying--
violet becoming blue, growing
black, black--all that
an iris ever prays,
when it prays,
to be.

Li-Young Lee /1957/

The Author of American Ornithology Sketches a Bird, Now Extinct

(Alexander Wilson, Wilmington, N.C. 1809)

When he walked throught town, the wing-shot he´d hidden
Inside his coat began to cry like a baby,
High and plaintive and loud as the calls he`d heard
While hunting it in the woods, and goodwives stared
And scurried indoors to guard their own from harm.

And the innkeeper and the goodmen in the tavern
Asked him whether his child was sick, then laughed.
Slapped knees, and laughed as he unswaddled his prize,
His pride and burden: an ivory-billed woodpecker
As big as a crow, still wailing and sqealing.

Upstairs, when he let it go in his workroom,
It fell silent at last. He told at dinner
How devoted masters of birds drawn from the life
Must gather their flocks around them with a rifle
And make them live forever inside books.

Later, he found his bedspread covered with plaster
And the bird clinging beside a hole in the wall
Clear through to already-splintered weatherboards
And the sky beyond. While he tied one of its legs
To a table leg, it started wailing again.

And went on wailing as if toward cypress groves
While the artist drew and tinted on fine vellum
Its red cockade, gray claws, and sepia eyes
From which a white edge flowed to the lame wing
Like light flying and ended there in blackness.

He drew and studied for days, eating and dreaming
Fitfully through the dancing and loud drumming
Of an ivory bill that refused pecans and beetles,
Chestnuts and sweet-sour fruit of magnolias,
Riddling his table, slashing his fingers, wailing.

He watched it die, he said, with great regret.

David Wagoner (1926-)


God is older than the sun and moon
and the eye cannot behold him
nor voice describe him.

But a naked man, a stranger, leaned on the gate
with his cloak over his arm, waiting to be asked in.
So I called him: Come in, if you will!-
He came in slowly, and sat down by the hearth.
I said to him: And what is your name?-
He looked at me without answer, but such a loveliness
entered me, I smiled to myself, saying: He is God!
So he said: Hermes!

God is older than the sun and moon
and the eye cannot behold him
nor the voice describe him:
and still, this is the God Hermes, sitting by my hearth.

D.H. Lawrence (1883-1930)