The Academy of American Poets is the largest membership-based nonprofit organization fostering an appreciation for contemporary poetry and supporting American poets. For over three generations, the Academy has connected millions of people to great poetry through programs such as National Poetry Month, the largest literary celebration in the world; Poets.org, the Academy’s popular website; American Poets, a biannual literary journal; and an annual series of poetry readings and special events. Since its founding, the Academy has awarded more money to poets than any other organization.
I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean,
the farthest away place from anything else.
There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I've never seen except the bananas.
All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if
they take turns who's first like carrying
the flag in school. Carrying the flag
way out in front and the others
following along behind in two long lines,
pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow
from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now
and it's almost noon here on the island.
Noon stares back no matter where you are.
Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday
a gust almost blew me inside. I heard
that the black widows live inside the volcano
far down below in the high grasses that you can't
see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you
that this morning the bells rang and I
followed them and at the source of the bells,
there I found so many animals
all gathered together in a room
with carved wooden statues
and wooden benches and low wooden slats
for kneeling. And the animals were there
singing together, all their voices singing,
with big strong voices rising from even
the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals
come together and sing before, except in
high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass
are pieced together into stories. Some days
I want to sing with them.
I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can't sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens
when the animals stop singing.
And then I think of all the medications
and their side effects that are advertised
between the pieces of news. And then I think
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,
and all the money they spent to buy
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money
buys the news, and what news
creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal.
I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's
hard to know what an animal will do when it
stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just
I can’t write you because everything’s
wrong. Before dawn, crows swim
from the cedars: black coffee calls them down,
its bitter taste in my throat as they circle,
raucous, huge. Questions with no
place to land, they cruise yellow air
above crickets snapping
like struck matches. My house on fire, crows
are the smoke. You’ve never left me.
When you crossed the river you did not
call my name. I stood in tall grass
a long time, listening to birds
hidden in reeds, their intricate songs.
The grass will burn, the wrens,
the river and the rain that falls on it.
I can go nowhere else: everything
I cannot bear is here.
I must listen deeper. Sharpen my knife.
Something has changed the angles
of trees, their color. Do not wait to hear
from me. I cannot write to you
because this is what I will say.
While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.
At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?
At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.