By Josephine Jacobsen
At night, alone, the animals came and shone.
The darkness whirled but silent shone the animals:
The lion the man the calf the eagle saying
Sanctus which was and is and is to come.
The sleeper watched the people at the waterless wilderness’ edge;
The wilderness was made of granite, of thorn, of death,
It was the goat which lightened the people praying.
The goat went out with sin on its sunken head.
On the sleeper’s midnight and the smaller after hours
From above below elsewhere there shone the animals
Through the circular dark; the cock appeared in light
Crying three times, for tears for tears for tears.
High in the frozen tree the sparrow sat. At three o’clock
The luminous thunder of its fall fractured the earth.
The somber serpent looped its coils to write
In scales the slow snake-music of the red ripe globe.
To the sleeper, alone, the animals came and shone,
The darkness whirled but silent shone the animals.
Just before dawn the dove flew out of the dark
Flying with green in her beak; the dove also had come.
Josephine Jacobsen, “The Animals” from In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Josephine Jacobsen. Reproduced with the permission of The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Source: In the Crevice of Time: New and Selected Poems (1995)
Josephine Jacobsen was born in Ontario, Canada, and educated at Roland Park Country School by private tutors. She published her first poem at the age of ten in a children’s magazine and continued to publish poems, short stories, and literary criticism for the next eight decades. She received many honors, including an appointment as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, a position which allowed her to help many young writers. In her own poetry, Jacobsen uses animal and nature imagery to explore themes of identity, isolation, and the relationship between the physical and spiritual, all while reconciling her love of this world with the fact of death.
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