Human Nature As the seasons change, four local poets reflect on the (meta)physical world.

By Kimberly Uslin



Why I Don’t Write Nature Poems

Because I’m always wearing the wrong
shoes, I rarely stray from the path.
There’s recollect, there’s tranquility
and the way the trains punctuate each
hour, shrill the shaken fields.  Let’s bide
a bit here, thinking why we love
them—the tracks, the transit, a train’s
a metaphor for so many things in life.
Like me, too busy eyeing up the buffet
from the back of the line to consider a
phalanx of phlox, the tabby stray ca-
vorting in the hedge.  I don’t see a cow
meadow as any kind of invocation.
Am drawn to the satellite dish disrupt-
ing the view.  To the one swatch of sky
where the haze hangs.  Because, truly,
the one time I tried, the saddled mare
extended an answer. The hoof on my
foot a fine form. Because the genius of
the place can drop a scroll of sycamore
bark at my feet, and I still can’t trans-
late his tongue.  Slow study. What hap-
pens in the ditch, the dun. Because a
cicada’s buzz in the topmost branch is
all the intel left to get, trilling, a
telling:  here, here, I am here.

—Jane Satterfield

 

Primavera

By now the cardinal’s promise
of blood on the trees is spent.

Last week neither storms nor
the locution of willows in wind

was enough to break
the heavy palmed heat.

Even a piteous crow
on a powerline, a lone smudge

against the sky’s unfinished canvas
cannot awaken an awe, or the ache

filled knees of the penitent to bend.
My mother has seen her last spring.

—Steven Leyva

 

Ceres (by Elizabeth Hazen)

“Gravitational perturbations from Jupiter billions
of years ago prevented [Ceres] from becoming
a full-fledged planet. Ceres ended up among the
leftover debris of planetary formation in the main
asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.”
—NASA.org

In one version of the story Jupiter,
virile god of sky and thunder, is to blame
for her limitations, his gravitational pull
enough to stultify her growth. Her lesser
form, sculpted by impacts, obeys the dictates
of his belt—it’s true—but let us not forget
her domain: growth, harvest, motherly love,
and like all mothers she is volatile, fierce,
instinctive. She is no mere passenger.
At any moment, she could decide to leave
her orbit, come raining down on us, blooming
apocalypse, so scientists punch numbers,
keep her in check, as if they could stop
her coming. Fools. She may be invisible,

even in the brightest light, but I can see
her burning from a hundred million miles
away; who cares if the calculations don’t
bear this out? Let me tell you something about
the bearing out of things: when he pushed through me,
gagging for that first breath, no equation could
contain his need, my relief, the bleeding. And when

my heart rate dropped, I might have disappeared—
a star burning out, an asteroid imploding,
substance transforming to debris— but I wanted
only to sleep, wake up again, and feed
my son. From the moment we are born, gravity
presses down on us. We fight to lift our heads.
We bear hunger, secrets, the passage of time,

the limitations of our bodies, the knowledge
of what we almost were, and of what we are.
Oh, Ceres, I am not afraid of you.
You were not made for destruction, and however
the universe has failed you, you endure,
vivid in darkness, indefinable.
You are exactly where you want to be.

—Elizabeth Hazen

 

Love Tan

I am romantic like the smell
of clothes draped in crime drama.
Don’t pee in the water,
pee in the woods.

I have a crush on the world,
but it is not treating me well.
If I am an object, I am an
object of your nightmares.

Construction trucks stop in front of me,
then put up the LANE CLOSED sign.
How easily can you crack my spine
and find a way for our bones to touch?

Every poem is a love poem
in which we play a love game.
I want to feel all the tiny steps
of our tanned destruction.

Will you kiss each vertebrae?
We are alone together.
Let’s just have a pillow fight party.
Hurt each other with feathers.

I am going to climb my loft bed
and kiss the spider webs.

—Tracy Dimond

(Previously published in I Want Your Tan, Ink Press 2015)

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