Texas flag painted onto corrugated metal and peeling

Letter to America by David Axelrod

One Poem

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There are Things More Important Than Living

—so the Lieutenant Governor of Texas says,
more important than Quinn or Charlotte,
more important really than Vera or Silas
or all the children I might speak to this year.
More important, too, than a green moth
and fawn lily clinging to one another as frost thaws.
More important than the mink I glimpsed
along the creek a week ago last Wednesday—
the color of its fur in morning light
more radiant than any woman
or king ever draped over their shoulders.
What is more important than evening
filled with swallow flight,
than a meal shared with neighbors,
the wren who sings to Jenny every spring
or these waves in white sandstone
that are the ocean’s memory of its shore?
Is anything more important than little Auguste
crying out to the daylit moon? Tell me, tell me,
tell me again, please Lieutenant Governor of Texas,
what is more important than all the names
I’ve tried over a lifetime to learn and see
more important than all the people
who still remain invisible to me?
What is more important this morning
than raising a cairn in memory of a woman
whose granddaughter I love, in memory
of all those like her who have died old and alone?




David AxelrodDavid Axelrod is the author of eight collections of poems, most recently, The Open Hand (Lost Horse Press) and two collections of creative nonfiction, including The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence (OSU Press). Recent work appears in About Place, Bellingham Review, The Meadow, and Split Rock Review, and is forthcoming in Weber–The Contemporary West and saltfront: studies in human habit(at). He directs the low-residency MFA and Wilderness, Ecology & Community Programs at Eastern Oregon University, edits basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts, and is a contributing editor to Lynx House Press. He makes his home in Missoula, Montana.

Read poetry and nonfiction by David Axelrod previously appearing in Terrain.org: one poem, two poems, two poems, and “To Live as We Dream,” an essay.

Header photo by Falkenpost, courtesy Pixabay.


Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.