Three wonderful writers sent in poems–two after one of Stevens’s most popular and most influential poems, “Thirteen Ways of Looking a Blackbird” In alphabetical order: Tiff Holland, W.F. Lantry, and William Walsh
13 Ways of Looking at a Buzzard
Black bird that is not a blackbird:
blackbird, grackle crow .raven.
These are the black birds.
The tree was dead
My mind was empty.
There were three buzzards
and the shadows of buzzards
and the other birds stayed away.
The dog sniffs the fence line.
The dog watches the buzzards.
I watch the dog
the dog and the buzzards and I are one.
I prefer the silence of buzzards.
The crows caw, the grackles heckle
the ravens are unknown to me.
I understand the buzzards.
Shadows climb the fence.
The civilized grass lies down.
Unrecognizable insects land on my paper
their letter-stroke legs form
In Texas the buzzards are raptors,
scavengers, vultures and cousins:
The hawks are excluded,
true birds of prey.
When I couldn’t leave my chair
the buzzards left their shadow in the windows.
When I couldn’t leave the couch, they circled the tree.
When I couldn’t walk, they flew,
and when I couldn’t sit they perched.
They disappear, sometimes for days
they fly alone, in flocks, in clutches.
What is the multiplicity of the buzzards?
Seven today flying ovoid flightplans
preparing for landing
upon the fingertips
of the upheld hand
of the earth’s dead arm
They fly into Hinkley Ohio each spring.
I am from near Hinkley,
have rappelled the boulders,
watched the air,
but these buzzards stay here. It is
winter, but they stay in spring, too.
They hunch their shoulders.
They are complete in stillness.
The clouds have boundaries here.
The creek is dry.
The round rock sits like a top in the river.
Still ,things die on the Chisholm trail,
along the highway.
Still the buzzards eat.
I measure the day by the shadows on the fence,
the flight of the buzzards,
their uneasy rest.
There are cedar trees to the east,
The buzzards choose to roost in the sun,
death eaters in the open fist of death.
Tiff Holland writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in dozens of litmags, ezines and anthologies and her poetry chapbook Bone In a Tin Funnel is available directly from Tiff or through Pudding House Press. Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
“what are the holy cities of America?”
There are no blackbirds on the Stevens walk.
We circle, looking for a seemly place
to park, and try The Hartford’s spacious lot.
The young attendant greets us, but he’s got
no notion who the poet was. His face
is buoyant with new generosity:
parking’s on him. Our curiosity
drives us to find the rough commencement stone
set in this lawn along Asylum Road.
She reads, and I explain to James the code
engraved into the polished face. He’s known
as a good finder, and he spots the next
just north. The devotees of Malcolm X
are handing out their Final Call, and stare
as I explain the third. A river birch
papers its bark before the red doored church.
I love the fifth. Its sounds, in empty air,
presage our storm. We cross the Brahmin stream
to gated lions, once held in esteem
but fallen now, twisted by wind and snow:
the mansions have been sold. White faces peer
from windows, dialing. Silly, I revere
the last. A squad car watches as we go
towards the park, along the cedared block.
“Pilgrimage” first appeared in Cutbank
W.F. Lantry, a native of San Diego, won the CutBank 2010 Patricia Goedicke Prize and the 2010 Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize in Israel. His work has appeared in Gulf Coast, Prairie Fire, Literal Latté, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Now Culture and The Wallace Stevens Journal. He currently works in Washington, DC. and is a contributing editor of Umbrella: A Journal of Poetry and Kindred Prose.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at Mrs. Wallace Stevens
Outliving your mister
by one hundred years
and counting is not wifely,
Mrs. Wallace Stevens.
Your face on a dime,
Mrs. Wallace Stevens,
is now worth $849,
if full bands.
No somatic memory of the poet
or the policy or the note
from the bank addressed
to Mrs. Wallace Stevens.
Mrs. Wallace Stevens is counting breath mints.
Your fear of R2D2 is not so charming
after all these years, the blips and
bleeps translate to this: Take a letter,
Mrs. Wallace Stevens.
You—Mrs. Wallace Stevens—resisted
his intelligence successfully.
Mrs. Wallace Stevens overheard
saying to the girl poet in the hall:
You do look like a pool. You do,
you do, you do.
Crazy, crazy, crazy. Sincerely, Mrs. Wallace Stevens.
Letting Hemingway kick his ass for you, nearly
forgotten now. And Mrs. Wallace Stevens posing
for that picture with the fattest cat on the porch.
The built-up shoes, the trick knees,
the canoe floating above the head of
Mrs. Wallace Stevens, who pretends to carry
her share of the load in shallow waters.
Mrs. Wallace Stevens misheard blackboard and
imagined drawing flight and then misunderstood.
Almost certainly undiagnosed early Alzheimer’s.
And now so late, Mrs. Wallace Stevens.
The tennis racket, the butterfly net, the flyswatter.
Apt metaphors for Mrs. Wallace Stevens. And a dry
erase marker resting on a stepstool.
William Walsh’s short stories and derived texts have appeared in New York Tyrant, Juked, Caketrain, LIT, Annalemma, Artifice, No Colony, Rosebud, Crescent Review, Quarterly West, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and other journals. His first book, Without Wax: A Documentary Novel, was published in 2008 by Casperian Books. Questionstruck came out in 2009 from Keyhole Press. Pathologies is also available from Keyhole. Forthcoming in 2011 are two collections: Ampersand, Mass. and Unknown Arts.