Next week I’m heading to New York for the William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest reading. Mark Doty will be the featured reader. He’s a marvelous poet. Here’s one of my favorites of his poems.
Near evening, in Fairhaven, Massachusetts,
seventeen wild geese arrowed the ashen blue
over the Wal-Mart and the Blockbuster Video,
and I was up there, somewhere between the asphalt
and their clear dominion—not in the parking lot,
its tallowy circles just appearing,
the shopping carts shining, from above,
like little scraps of foil. Their eyes
held me there, the unfailing gaze
of those who know how to fly in formation,
wing tip to wing tip, safe, fearless.
And the convex glamour of their eyes carried
the parking lot, the wet field
troubled with muffler shops
and stoplights, the arc of highway
and its exits, one shattered farmhouse
with its failing barn… The wind
a few hundred feet above the grass
erases the mechanical noises, everything;
nothing but their breathing
and the rowing of the pinions,
and then, out of that long percussive pour
toward what they are most certain of,
comes their—question, is it?
Assertion, prayer, aria—as delivered
by something too compelled in its passage
to sing? A hoarse and unwieldy music
that plays nonetheless down the length
of me until I am involved in their flight,
the unyielding necessity of it, as they literally
rise above, ineluctable, heedless,
needing nothing… Only animals
make me believe in God now
—so little between spirit and skin,
any gesture so entirely themselves.
But I wasn’t with them,
as they headed toward Acushnet
and New Bedford, of course I wasn’t,
though I was not exactly in the parking lot
either, where the cars nudged in and out
of their slots, each taking the place another
had abandoned so that no space, no desire
would remain unfulfilled. I wasn’t there.
I was so filled with longing
—is that what that sound is for?—
I seemed to be nowhere at all.
Mark Doty from Atlantis
And for those of you in New York, here is the flier for the reading: