Skip to main content
By Dana Gioia

Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds   

start up again. The crickets, the invisible   

toad who claims that change is possible,


And all the other life too small to name.   

First one, then another, until innumerable

they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.


Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,   

fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers

snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.


And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone   

can bear to be a stone, the pain

the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.


Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,   

rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall

and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.


The old windmill creaks in perfect time

to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,   

and the last farmhouse light goes off.


Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt   

these hills and packs of feral dogs.

But standing here at night accepts all that.


You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,   

moving more slowly than the crippled stars,   

part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,


Part of the grass that answers the wind,

part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows   

there is no silence but when danger comes.


Dana Gioia, “Becoming a Redwood” from The Gods of Winter. Copyright © 1991 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: The Gods of Winter: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1991)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

Dana Gioia
It seems almost a requirement for a poet to have an unconventional résumé, but Dana Gioia’s is perhaps notable for being so conventionally unpoetic. A graduate of Stanford Business School, Gioia claims to be “the only person, in history, who went to business school to be a poet.” He later rose to become a vice president at General Foods. He served as chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2008 and is the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California. In 2015, Gioia was named Poet Laureate of California. Although Gioia writes in free verse, he is known primarily for his formal work, and has been included in the school of New Formalism, a movement in the 1990s by American poets to bring traditional verse forms back to the fore. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet

More Poems about Nature

Browse poems about Nature