Four Poems

Jonathan Skinner



caught in a still

picture of moss

falls and creeks

eyes take us

to the sound

in branch tips

the trees make

as they bend, twist

& whip the blue

stands of red

scaly pine sway

to and fro

dead snags

creak, unlock

a silver tooth

fox calls


owl voice

the trees

make speeches

in their bark

the green

new life

through which

white tailed

junco soldiers

move quietly




I could smell it, I could smell the spring on the air

a smell of wet earth, carried across state lines

always wanting to put a bite in

as spring rains hammer away snow

let’s pretend we’re in Antarctica

and sleep through the singing of birds

that in itself is forgivable

when your heart beats so hard

you want to wear it down

our gods arrive in a cloud

what’s hard wrought remains

owls getting ready to prowl

as the snow tunnels appear




long tail

formerly old squaw

dives with the quickness of thought

into the heavy green wave

life at the boundary, phase changes

white to dark cheek patch

red band marks the beak

near and far, lifted gone

wave after wave after wave

clanging of the sea bell

you are in the world

ow, ow, owal-ow

and wiggle through

surfing, chasing tubes, tailing

out — ‘south-southerly’ ?

a ‘bone’ at the breast





“You will count them all in,
you will stay in the midst of them,
you will know no law, you will hear them
in the narrow seas”


Charles Olson, Maximus Letter 14


the moment of one

is not enough, & yet

all undoes, lets me

awaken, agash

before flowers bud

break out, and green

retakes the land


the bare unknown


facts are hidden

in plain sight

sparrows flitting

in last year’s leaves

touch a nerve


share me a song

and I’ll go quiet

as a two-note

chorus bends

the time sweetly

sews me to you

not taken slowly


red rimmed in

yellow, blood sky

of shanties rocks

the exposure

fakes a capital

offense thickened

at the cut



blue jays, doves

do otherwise

layered grunking

in open water

the crocuses push

faster than forward


three other land

scapes uncenter

the heart, some

are fake but all

the songs are ok

blackbirds! free

the social canvas


crows, saw me

in half, sparrows

strike the house

lit for a branch

into blue glass

phantom sky

unearthed, curls


the resurrection

is spare, some

vacant pastures

eliminate time

one chorus, one

dance occupies

all of space





Jonathan Skinner founded and edits the journal ecopoetics, which features creative-critical intersections between writing and ecology. His poetry collections include Birds of Tifft (BlazeVOX, 2011) and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005). Skinner has published critical essays on Charles Olson, Ronald Johnson, Lorine Niedecker, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Bernadette Mayer, translations of French poetry and garden theory, essays on bird song from the perspective of ethnopoetics, and essays on horizontal concepts such as the Third Landscape and on Documentary Poetry. Currently, he is writing a book of investigative poems on the urban landscapes of Frederick Law Olmsted, and a critical book on Animal Transcriptions in contemporary poetry. He teaches in the Writing Program at the University of Warwick.

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