Terrain.org Columns.


Originally appeared in Issue No. 3



Ashton Nichols


In the field there is an animal

In the field there is an animal
and he has no name,
he will never have a name,
he is dark.
His name might be darkness,
then his mate would shine brightly,
but she lies low too,
silent as all hell sleeping.

When I step outside and listen,
ears staining in the night, for the sound
of two animals I cannot see,
I know only one true word.
The true word I know is "breathing"—yes.
The two dark animals are breathing.



Open Season

Up through the deer leg forest
the young hunter comes: rifle ready,
eyes steady, hands hairless on the trigger,
cold iron, gun blue. Stealth in stalking,
the young hunter's body, lithe and supple,
his taut skin shining. Then an icy crack
of no turning back sounds in the distant trees.
The father has shot the air
and struck down his scared young deer,
life and blood leaving the woods in silence.



Animate Nature

Salamanders sleep when cold weather comes,
they know that the frost will chill blood,
freeze the bones.

Snakes shed dry skins when the fall wind
rolls, with ice-fog from the sea, on a day
dark as death.

Spiders spin webs across wide leafless twigs,
legs unfold toward a spindle sun that, slow,
stops shining.

Bees bore dark round holes in rough wood
to hold warmth, but sharp stingers now sleep
and await a warm world.

Mushrooms rise overnight from leafmold
sickly sweet, seen in visions dead by day,
all as poisonous as dying.

Dew falls fast as it freezes. So the winter
wallows in, but no human hears or sees
just how dark this night is born.


Ashton Nichols teaches English at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His poetry has appeared in Southern Humanities Review, Country, The Arts Journal, Mattoid (Australia), and Resurgence (UK). He is also the author of two books of literary criticism: The Revolutionary "I" (St. Martin's, 1998) and The Poetics of Epiphany (Alabama, 1987).
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