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About this Poem 

"I've never been to the Effigy Mounds National Monument; I've only seen aerial photographs. A friend who has visited several times told me that, because you look at the mounds from the ground, you can't see the animal shapes—it just looks like little hills. When she told me this, I thought: it would be impossible to create all those shapes (they go on for hundreds of miles) unless you could see the construction from above. Then I thought, maybe something was directing it, and the people were seeing through its eyes. Then I imagined the animals lying down and willing themselves to grow gigantic, like a queen bee does, and show off their shapes to this thing in the sky and become one with it. Then I thought, Whoa!"
—Jennifer L. Knox

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa

 

Before there was the time we see
there was the time we saw through,
when the biggest bear lied down,
exhaled the boundary of herself—
woof!—and rolled onto her side.

Her family followed in a line,
bending like an oxbow lake,
crocheting holes in the land
where water bubbled through
(so much does bubble through).

Birds saw the bears
bubbling up and dug it.
Whoa!

So with wing fingers wide,
they pressed their feathered breasts
flat to the ground which sung
their own songs back at them but
way slower, like whale
songs in
amber.

Is that a yes or a no? the birds asked.
Yes, replied the ground.
Whoa!

Green grass grew over them,
which was a long, green love song.

Nearby, turtles, panthers, dogs
lost their boundaries…exhaled…then
found them again and became constellations.

What speed was the time
signature singing then when all those
holes in space opened up
and bear after bear,
bird after bird,
sun after sun lost
refound their shapes in
the long song, knowing
themselves at last for
what they were:

eternal,
immutable,
from every possible angle.

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer L. Knox. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer L. Knox. This poem was commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and funded by a National Endowment for the Arts Imagine Your Parks grant.

Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of Days of Shame and Failure (Bloof Books, 2015), The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway (Bloof Books, 2010), Drunk by Noon (Bloof Books, 2007), and A Gringo Like Me (Bloof Books, 2007). She lives in Iowa, where she teaches at Iowa State University.

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