by Ellen Bryant Voigt

Ellen Bryant Voigt

Down on the porch, the blacksnake
sits like a thick fist.
His back is flexed and slick.
The wedge of his forehead turns
to the sun. He does not remember
the skin shucked in the attic,
the high branches of our family tree.

The moth will not recall the flannel
cocoon. The snail empties the endless
convolutions of its shell. Think
of the husk of the locust,
sewn like an ear to the elm.
How easily they leave old lives,
as an eager lover steps from the skirts
at her ankles.
Sleep corrects memory:
the long sleep of bear and woodchuck,
the sleep of the sea,
the sleep of the wooden spool unwinding,
the sleep of snow, when houses lose
their angles and edges, the slow
sleep of no dreaming;
and we could rise up in new skins
to a full confusion of green,
to the slick stalks of grasses,
and the catalpa, that beany tree, offering
its great, white, aromatic promise.

Collected Poems

Last updated March 12, 2023