At six a.m. the log cabins
nose an immense cow-pie of mist
that lies on the lake.
Nineteen pale goldfinches perch
side by side on the telephone wire
that runs to shore,
and under them the camp cow,
her bones pointing this way and that,
is collapsed like a badly constructed
pup tent in the dark weeds.
Inside, I am building a fire
in the old woodstove with its rod overhead
for hunters’ clothes to steam on.
I am hunting for nothing—
perhaps the three cold pencils
that lie on the table like kindling
could go in to start the logs.
I remember Ted Weiss saying,
”At the exhibition I suddenly realized
Picasso had to remake everything he laid his eyes on
into an art object.
He couldn’t let the world alone.
Since then I don’t write every morning.”
The world is warming and lightening
and mist on the pond
dissolves into bundles and ribbons.
At the end of my dock there comes clear,
bared by the gentle burning,
a monstrous hulk with thorny head,
up to his chest in the water,
mist wreathing round him.
Grander and grander grows the sun
until he gleams, his brown coat
glistens, the great rack,
five feet wide, throws sparks
of light. A ton of monarch,
munching, he stands spotlit.
Then slowly, gravely, the great neck lowers
head and forty pounds of horn
to sip the lake.
The sun stains the belittled
cow’s hide amber.
She heaves her bones and bag
and her neckbell gongs
as she gets to her feet
in yellow blooms of squaw-weed.
On the telephone wire
all the little golden bells are ringing
as that compulsive old scribbler, the universe,
jots down another day.
From Letters from a Father, and Other Poems (McMillan, 1982)
From Selected Poems (Atheneum, 2002)
This poem first appeared in The New Yorker, September 24, 1979
|Purchase a framed print of this poem.
Mona Van Duyn (1921 - 2004, and it’s pronounced "Van Dine") was born and raised in Iowa. A voracious reader who started writing poetry in elementary school, she spent her life teaching and lecturing in universities. During the course of her career, Mona won every major poetry prize in America. She was the first female U.S. poet laureate, published nine books, and spent nearly thirty years publishing and editing a poetry journal with her husband, Jarvis Thurston. Mona’s preferred topics were love, art, and time—a preference which caused her to be dubbed a "domestic poet." Mona loathed that label; from her perspective, she simply wrote about ordinary people doing ordinary things. Plagued by depression throughout her life, Mona died from bone cancer at the age of 83.
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I love the way it infolds as you savor each wonderful line...a lovely gift given to us to share. Judy
Posted 01/30/2015 04:27 PM
I wouldn't want this day to end.
Posted 01/30/2015 10:08 AM
I love it.
Posted 01/30/2015 08:47 AM
What a great start to my subscription to 'Your Daily Poem'. I loved the golden bells all ringing. I await tomorrow's offering with interest. Thank you.
Posted 01/30/2015 08:15 AM
Thank you for introducing me to this wonderful poet. I look forward to reading more from her.
Posted 01/30/2015 05:58 AM
I wonder how you can know it is forty pounds of horn. The precision works for me and I am impressed by the balance of fact and that incredible figure.
Posted 01/30/2015 03:14 AM
Brilliant. Beautiful. Thank you for this. Lois
Posted 01/29/2015 11:09 PM