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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, September 25, 2017.
About this Poem 
“Like many people in this tumultuous time in our nation, I question the origins of the chaos we’re suffering. I imagined an ‘origins dialogue’—art and artlessness, reason and reflex—and this poem is the result.”
—Linda Bierds
 

Metamorphosis: 1680

                     I paint flowers decorated with caterpillars.
                     I want to inquire into everything that exists and find
                     out how it began.
                                           —Maria Sibylla Merian
 
                                From basil, the scorpion.
                                           —Athanasius Kircher    
              
 
From pine tree resin, amber.
          From fury, hail.
From acacia’s sap, the bond.
          From raindrops, frogs.
From clay, yellow ochre.
          From dust, fleas.
From the beetle, carmine.
          From mud, the beetle.
From the murex snail, violet.
          From sea foam, the anchovy.
From the lamb, parchment.
          From the bull, the bee.
What?
          From the mouth of a slaughtered bull,
          cloaked in thyme and serpyllium,
          the bee.
From the sable, the brush tip.
          From books, the moth.
From the eagle, swan, crow, lark,
the diminishing quills.
          From fire, red snow and the west wind,
          the worm.
From the worm, the silk moth.
          From vapor, the silk moth.
What? From the spun cocoon, the silk moth.
          Yes. From steam and bluster,
          the silk moth.
From the silk moth’s mouth,
the potentate’s cloak.
          From the potentate’s horse,
          the hornet.

Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Linda Bierds. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Linda Bierds

Linda Bierds

Linda Bierds was raised in Anchorage, Alaska, and attended the University of University of Washington, where she received her BA in 1969 and her MA in 1971.

by this poet

poem
When the cow died by the green sapling,
her limp udder splayed on the grass
like something from the sea, we offered
our words in their low calibrations—
which was our fashion—then severed
her horns with a pug-toothed blade
and pounded them out to an amber
transparency, two sheets that became,
in their moth-wing
poem
". . . tomorrow I look forward to a greater harvest."
     —Charles Darwin, 1832


Month after dry month, then suddenly
a brief rain has delivered to the fractured hillsides
a haze of grass. So sparse it might be
a figment of the heart. Yet its path
on the outstretched hand is true—brush and retreat—
like the
poem
     1.

In the windless late sunlight of August,
my father set fire to a globe of twine. At his back,
the harvested acres of bluegrass and timothy
rippled. I watched from a shallow hill
as the globe, chained to the flank of his pickup truck,
galloped and bucked down a yellow row, arced
at the fire trench,