By the stream, where the ground is soft
and gives, under the slightest pressure—even   
the fly would leave its footprint here   
and the paw of the shrew the crescent   
of its claws like the strokes of a chisel   
in clay; where the lightest chill, lighter   
than the least rumor of winter, sets the reeds   
to a kind of speaking, and a single drop of rain   
leaves a crater to catch the first silver   
glint of sun when the clouds slide away   
from each other like two tired lovers,   
and the light returns, pale, though brightened   
by the last chapter of late autumn:   
copper, rusted oak, gold aspen, and the red
pages of maple, the wind leafing through to the end   
the annals of beech, the slim volumes   
of birch, the elegant script of the ferns ...

for the birds, it is all
notations for a coda, for the otter   
an invitation to the river,
and for the deer—a dream
in which to disappear, light-footed   
on the still open book of earth,   
adding the marks of their passage,   
adding it all in, waiting only
for the first thick flurry of snowflakes   
for cover, soft cover that carries   
no title, no name.

  • Eleanor Wilner, “Ex Libris” from Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Eleanor Wilner. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

  • Source: Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I did not expect to fall in love with poetry. I just expected to recite and be done with it. After just sitting there and analyzing my poems, I realized that the stories told through these few words mean so much. I had to step out of myself and step into the author's shoes, and with that comes great work."
Kyla Rose Bates
2016 LA POL Champion