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    Original Essays | September 21, 2015

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Natural History (05 Edition)


Natural History (05 Edition) Cover





When I say 'you' in my poems, I mean you.

I know its weird: we barely met.

You must hear this all the time, being you.

That night we were at opposite ends of

the long table, after the pungent

Russian condiments, the carafes of tarragon vodka,

the chafing dishes full of boiled smelts

I was a little drunk: after you left,

I ate the last smelt off your dirty plate.


There is one mind in all of us, one soul,

who parches the soil in some nations

but in others hides perpetually behind a veil;

he spills light everywhere, here he spilled

some on my tie, but it dried before dinner ended.

He is in charge of darkness also, also

in charge of crime, in charge of the imagination.

People fucking flick him off and on,

off and on, with their eyelids as they ascertain

with their eyes their loves sincerity.

He makes the stars disappear, but he makes

small stars everywhere, on the hoods of cars,

in the compound eyes of skyscrapers or in the eyes

of sighing lovers bored with one another.

Onto the surface of the world he stamps

all plants and animals. They are not gods

but he made us worshippers of every

bramble toad, black chive, we find.

In Idaho there is a desert cricket that makes

a clocklike tick-tick when he flies, but he

is not a god. The only god is the sun,

our mind-master of all crickets and clocks.


How to explain my heroic courtesy? I feel

that my body was inflated by a mischievous boy.

Once I was the size of a falcon, the size of a lion,

once I was not the elephant I find I am.

My pelt sags, and my master scolds me for a botched

trick. I practiced it all night in my tent, so I was

somewhat sleepy. People connect me with sadness

and, often, rationality. Randall Jarrell compared me

to Wallace Stevens, the American poet. I can see it

in the lumbering tercets, but in my mind

I am more like Eliot, a man of Europe, a man

of cultivation. Anyone so ceremonious suffers

breakdowns. I do not like the spectacular experiments

with balance, the high-wire act and cones.

We elephants are images of humility, as when we

undertake our melancholy migrations to die.

Did you know, though, that elephants were taught

to write the Greek alphabet with their hooves?

Worn out by suffering, we lie on our great backs,

tossing grass up to heaven-as a distraction, not a prayer.

Thats not humility you see on our long final journeys:

its procrastination. It hurts my heavy body to lie down.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Chiasson, Dan
Knopf Publishing Group
American - General
General Poetry
Poetry-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.40x5.91x.28 in. .31 lbs.

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Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z
Science and Mathematics » Biology » General

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