We interrupt the weekly American Life in Poetry column to bring readers something local. On Friday night at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, Washington poet laureate Tod Marshall read a new work he’d written to celebrate 10 years of the Fox restoration. Marshall, when he’s not crisscrossing the state in the name of poetry, is a professor at Gonzaga University.
Autumn Blessings for the Fox, 2017
To create is to live twice — Albert Camus
I’ve stood beneath the wide bough of a majestic tree
and listened to birds singing without knowing the names
of species, the notes their delicate throats reach
on some scale charted only by space, measured by the distance
between stars. Have you stayed awake through a long night,
watched the uncountable shimmer of the sky, the few famous lights
that we can name — Polaris, Arcturus, maybe a few more?
Sometimes we listen to those birds, glance at the night sky,
and do not fully marvel at the immense glory of that gathering,
the soft pardon singing gives us from the constantly ticking minutes.
Plumage is a word spoken to describe the superfluous.
Some say this of dance and music, of poetry, of the deep human spark
that is art. Consider the leaves of Manito bursting into red and gold,
the flame of fall announcing they will soon drop to the damp earth.
Each leaf does this once and is forever gone. And yet:
here, around us, we see the gift of rebirth, the restoration of shimmering light,
the miracle of a ceiling filled with stars. I will no longer say that a flower
blooms only once, that a fallen tree cannot find a new beginning,
that the leaf dropping in slow circles may never glow again.
Here, around us, the earth, a tree filled with wondrous song,
And — may it always be — a canopy above brilliant with stars.