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  • Fox-Sparrow
  • James McCorkle (bio)

What is known, comesabrupt, jump-cut to here, then gone—

one, banded, caught and released, was tenhow many migrationsfrom conifer forests south

or blown across the north Atlantic to Iceland or Greenland, scrabblein the Orkneys, a vagrant there

fox-red bandings, with fox-gray hooding,autumn chrysanthemums clutteredwith maple leaves

waiting for the cherry to drop its last gold leaves—

what to be attentive tothis autumn, howto be attendingto the song, the arc before time

runs to its one last dark stop—

to pick out essential markings rememberedfrom the guide, is to pick outdifferences, when ranges overlap

and geography is song—

Due south, through shale hills, crossing intoSusquehanna and Delaware watersheds [End Page 99]

flare-light in the hardwoods

and tonight I read Wei Ying-wu, who wrote the jade diggeron the Lan Riversleeps in the cold thicket

conscript to dig, one from each familyto dig out the verdantstone, moss stone, Wei watches the vanishingriver, the moon bell-struck

and the conscript's wife, miles south, he wrote in 775, weepsin the cold hut, husbandgone for months—

in hard times, hoe the garden of stones

eat the print of a tiger in the snow

sip from the vanished river above before dawn

take from one hand and place in the otherthe light of a lantern, the only gold we have on this path—

everything travels, slippagesthrough shale, fissured and laced, pores of seep and

migration upwards into limestoneand aquifer, vagrant element in the rock, displaced

and shunted up, methane rings, carbon releases, condensingsof time and mass—

tanker-trucks on the gravel access roads, deep intothe hardwoods, the clear-cut for

long-haulsto flush the toluene and radium from the wells' slick water—

the snow starts to fall, in the high ridgesthe whippoorwills have

left their calls in the leaf litter, and buckshot cans [End Page 100] surveyors' lines, posted signs shot-out

with "who the fuck cares" in dotted Morse and contrailslash of white across the sky,

all the leavingsoracles of what came to be, passed

the one truth that continues its seep, bloodline drip, a melodythat holds a tune, one sound

the unwrapping of stars—

Wei Ying-wu whispers to me, to slip into a boat, with the early snowand oar into the lake's long reach

chrysanthemums still bloom in the cold, come back,show me your feelings

wine has no taste when drinking alone

the lake a sheen of gray, early snow, geesegray and white risefrom the waters as a single liftingand down-pressingof wings, like a rush of summer rain across the water

the years are migrations, each one

to the north again, the workof creation never stops, the green half-moons scalethe bare lilac, the viburnum's green knots

on leafless branches—the foxsparrow

lands, flying south, its song to teach to singno destination, onlydirection, sparrow in the barebush, watches me, readied to fly, and gone—

a bowl of air where its song was held. [End Page 101]

James McCorkle

James McCorkle is a poet and editor. His books of poetry include Evidences, recipient of the American Poetry Review / Honickman Award, and The Subtle Bodies. He is also author of The Still Performance, a study of post-modern American poetry, the editor of Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry, and an associate editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry. He has received fellowships from the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the NEA and co-directs the Africana Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. His forthcoming book is In Time.



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