By Hayden Carruth
The northern lights. I wouldn’t have noticed them
if the deer hadn’t told me
a doe her coat of pearls her glowing hoofs
proud and inquisitive
eager for my appraisal
and I went out into the night with electrical steps
but with my head held also proud
to share the animal’s fear
and see what I had seen before
a sky flaring and spectral
greenish waves and ribbons
and the snow under strange light tossing in the pasture
like a storming ocean caught
by a flaring beacon.
The deer stands away from me not far
there among bare black apple trees
a presence I no longer see.
We are proud to be afraid
proud to share
the silent magnetic storm that destroys the stars
and flickers around our heads
like the saints’ cold spiritual agonies
I remember but without the sense other light-storms
cold memories discursive and philosophical
in my mind’s burden
and the deer remembers nothing.
We move our feet crunching bitter snow while the storm
crashes like god-wars down the east
we shake the sparks from our eyes
we quiver inside our shocked fur
we search for each other
in the apple thicket—
a glimpse, an acknowledgment
it is enough and never enough—
we toss our heads and say good night
moving away on bitter bitter snow.
Hayden Carruth, “I Know, I Remember, But How Can I Help You” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.
Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)
Hayden Carruth was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, and was educated at the University of North Carolina and the University of Chicago. He taught at Syracuse University for many years and worked for several literary magazines, including as the editor of Poetry magazine. He published over thirty books of poetry and criticism, and was awarded several top prizes. Much of his poetry, including “The Bearer,” is set in Northern Vermont, a setting with which Carruth often mixes his radical political beliefs. He frequently combined rural life with verbal resourcefulness, strongly influenced by jazz and blues music.
More By This Poet
Like all his people he felt at home in the forest.
The silence beneath great trees, the dimness there,
The distant high rustling of foliage, the clumps
Of fern like little green fountains, patches of sunlight,
Patches of moss and lichen, the occasional
More Poems about Nature
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
Of Tribulation, these are They,
Denoted by the White.
— Emily Dickinson
in the split geode
a Santa’s grotto
every surface —
like sea urchins’ —
in the doorways
sleepers from the womb
to make of anything succulent
More Poems about Relationships
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.
In the warmth of night I put feet to my plan: waited
for my brothers to sleep. They’d spent the day
sharpening their hooks, repairing the great net,
filling gourds with fresh water. They’d bundled
taro wrapped in leaves sitting below the cross seats.