Tag Archives: Anne Porter

Hiding under their feathers.

THE BIRDS OF PASSAGE

You are the one who made us
You silver all the minnows in all rivers
You wait in the deep woods
To find the newborn fox cubs
And unseal their eyes
You shower the sky with stars

You walk alone
In the wild royal darkness
Of the heavens above the heavens
Where no one else can go.

When the fragile swallows assemble
For their pilgrimages
When the hummingbirds
Who are scarcely more
Than a glittering breath
Set out for the rain forest
To drink from the scarlet flowers
On the other side of the world
With only now and then
The mast of a passing ship
For a resting place and an inn

When the Canada geese
Are coming down from the north
When the storks of Europe
Stretch out their necks toward Egypt
From their nests on the chimney tops
When shaking their big wings open
And trailing their long legs after them
They rise up heavily
To begin their autumn flight

You who speak without words
To your creatures who live without words
Are hiding under their feathers

To give them a delicate certainty
On the long dangerous night journey.

-Anne Porter

The Neighboring Sea

For a few years of my life I lived a few blocks from the beach near Santa Barbara, California, but my world was so full of other kinds of excitement in those days that I gave very little thought to my neighboring kingdom. It pains me at this stage of life to think what I missed by not spending more time at the ocean’s edge or at least gazing from the cliffs.

I’m reminded of that experience when reading Anne Porter’s description in this poem. In the wee hours she is “remembering” what must have been as near in the daytime, just at the end of the street. It’s from her collection Living Things, which was given to me at Christmas. My husband read this poem first and shared it with me only this morning. Devils-apron is a type of kelp.

THE NEIGHBORING SEA

At three in the morning the village is all in silence
But the silence is afloat on the roar of the sea
And all the streets are bathed in the roar of the sea
The waves are at their labors
Cresting and flooding all along the shore
Tumbling and spinning the kelp and the devils-apron
Threshing to meal the morsels and crumbs of stone
And the light seashells with their storm-blue linings.

This is the time of day when I remember
That down at the end of the street there is an ocean
A Nation of fishes and whales
A sky-colored country stretching from here to Spain
A liquid kingdom dragged about by the moon.

-Anne Porter

Ke’anae Peninsula, Maui