Two Poems

by Abigail Carroll

Flourish magazine, Spring 2011

The Honor of Animals
For Ken and Sara
When we saw the red sign
Watch out for cougar and bear
that brisk day we trailed

your homeland’s rocky coast, the bells
one might string to boots or wear
on wrists or dangle from the hip

banged like a mute orchestra
in my throat. I wanted to turn back,
but you laughed with a lightness

that played with the wind, slid
down the steep rays of the sun,
and we rode the big boats of our feet

over roots and lichen-faced rocks,
over stumps. When our words
gave way to the soft, meditative

thump of rubber on dirt, I blurted,
“Teach me your national anthem,”
which we sang to the endless audience

of the woods, first in English, then,
for the sake of noise, in a jumbled,
awkward French. We saw no prowling,

deep-jawed cats, only squirrels
and gulls, quaint starfish, crabs
prancing about in their tidy

pool-houses. We saw no bear,
but I wondered how many
saw us, their gentle, curious stare

cradling the odd sight
of our clumsy, upright walk—pair
after pair of silent, creaturely eyes,

ushering us like a white sail
into their presence, that country
of favor, of unexpected honor.


The mountains are shouting their existence to the air
which the sun punctures with cloud-bright interjections:
        Heaven! World Without End!

while the lake exclaims the sky, mirrors
its burning declaration in perfect agreement,
        magnifies it like a psalmic Oh,

        that universal emphasis of desperation and wonder.

Nothing is subtle, not even the tangled alphabet
of branches and twigs extending from the hickories,
        the pines asserting their creeds

        in thick configurations of hieroglyphic knots.

Loudly, this run-on sentence rings out, clause
after wild resounding clause, separated only by forest,
        swallow, insect, cloud—

each compounding the mystery in a phraseology
no linguist could ever hope to decipher. Spectators,
        we watch the production unfold—

        bedazzled, mute, supremely obscured—

wondering at the lakeside reeds–waxy slivers
of sky–where to enter, with what words,
        and when, the sacred grammar.

Head shot of poet Abigail CarrollAbigail Carroll has published prose in the New York Times, Winterthur Portfolio, and the Journal of Food, Culture and Society and is currently writing a popular history of the American meal for Basic Books. She lives in Middlebury, Vermont, where she is a member of the Spring Street Poets.


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