Letter to America: Poem by Catherine Staples

Letter to America by Catherine Staples

One Poem

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Swallows: Common yet Declining

And yet you’ll see them everywhere—
           on telephone wire or fence rail,
                     diving the swale between dunes
           riding the sun-baked meadows
uphill through aerials drifting on wind.    

Swealwe, suala, swalue, swallow—
           they swoop loose of syllables, the ancient
                     names that called them down.
           Iridescent blue and black, masters of the long
glide and liquid reverse. How slowly they go                       

from hayfield and sea-cliff, so slightly diminished
           we hardly notice a few less arrivals.
                     For still they build in barn rafters
           knock the nest, they’ll build again.
If ever once you’ve seen them, shuttling by hundreds

over sea swells, they shake the water from
           their wings, they skim
                     the bright forever—
           the drop off, the fly by, the see-able truths.
How the mind hoards beauty and resists the new

news about neonicotinoids in farmer’s fields:
           the insecticide casing of seeds
                     killing off the bees,
           diminishing a swallow’s ability to breed.
Who will hear what can’t be heard—
           gap in the whirr of singing—another silenced spring?




Catherine StaplesCatherine Staples is the author of The Rattling Window and Never a Note Forfeit. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Gettysburg Review, and others; she has new work forthcoming at The Southern Review and The Yale Review. She teaches in the Honors and English programs at Villanova University. You can find her at www.catherinestaples.com.

Read Catherine Staples’s essay “Last Run in the Batmobile” in Terrain.org.

Header photo by Kanenori, courtesy Pixabay.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.