From above, old Earth offers a cartography of troubles
for any long-flyer beating north or south—duck,
swan, swallow, hawk, owl or wren—
peering down to the red-lit blur of roads,
cities bristling with blinding light, freeway web,
tangle of wires tethered to slave trees, ancient
marsh gone to blacktop skin, the lacy skein
of the river’s former wanderings now bound
in a run of fast water—but there, in a glittering seam
somehow left beside the highway, two ducks
freighted with fatigue find a watery remnant
yet beckoning, and they veer down in a stall,
fall from the sky and splash a gash
into a patch of heaven.
Beside the frenzied roads, or left between fields,
or in some margin forgotten by human cleverness
two ducks in a ditch stitch one shred of Eden
to another, and another, and another,
seeking episodes of refuge for wild refugees.
In spite of all we’ve done wrong,
the beauty is this for duck and swan,
for fox and mouse, owl and butterfly—
there are these lands yet wild in coalition
that hold enough for all in knit thickets, meadows,
prairies, lazy streams and brimming earth,
nest of an acre, or a field, a grove, or a watershed.
Human wisdom shall be judged by two ducks
in a ditch lifting off and flying high
to look down on what we’ve left for them,
and for our own young kin.
“Puddle Jumper,” by Kim Stafford, is reprinted from Singer Come from Afar (Red Hen Press, 2021) by permission of the author.
Kim Stafford was named Oregon’s ninth Poet Laureate by Gov. Kate Brown in May 2018 for a two-year term. He travels the state to share the power of poetry to help communities become more curious about their own stories, more emotionally open, and better prepared to exercise freedom in speech to heal our divisions. Stafford teaches at Lewis & Clark College, and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently How to Sleep Cold, from Limberlost Press.
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