Terrain.org Columns.
View Terrain.org Blog.


Alison Hawthorne Deming


Listen to Alison Deming read this poem:

Pandora on Prozac

That was thousands of years ago
when everyone was a child
and supper grew on trees
faster than we could harvest

The troubles had not begun

Earth asked so little of us
our eyes blinded with sugary garlands

Gathering antheriums and orchids
to arrange in vases
was the hardest work

And then
for the rest of the day
there was the locked box

Who can blame us
that we were drawn
to what we couldn’t see or touch 
the box wrapped in gold cord
which we’d kneel beside
to try picking the fibers loose
never intending to undo the seal

Now whatever we do in this house
we feel there’s something else
we should be doing or
something we should be
doing differently

The arguments never stop
the revelry
of the hiveless swarm



Listen to Alison Deming read this poem:

Specimens Collected at the Clear Cut

1. Wild currant twig flowering with cluster of rosy micro-goblets.

2. Wild iris, its three landing platforms, purple bleeding to white then yellow in the honey hollows, purple veins showing the direction to the sweet spot.

3. Dogwood?   Not what I know from the northeast woods, the white four-petalled blossom marked with four rusty holes that make its shape a mnemonic for Christ hanging on the cross. This one, six-petalled, larger, whiter, domed seedhouse in the center, no holes on the edges, shameless heathen of the northwest forest that flaunts its status as exhibitionist for today.

4. Empty tortilla chip bag.

5. Empty Rolling Rock can.  Empty Mountain Dew bottle.  Empty shotgun shell.  Beer bottle busted by shotgun shell, blasted bull’s-eye hanging on alder sapling.

6. One large bruise four inches below right knee inflicted by old growth stump of Western red cedar, ascent attempted though the relic was taller and wider than me, debris field skirting a meter high at its base, wet and punky; nonetheless, I made my try, eyes on a block of sodden wood, reddened by rain, fragrant as a cedar closet here in the open air, the block of my interest wormed through (pecked through?) with tunnels diameter of a pencil.  How many decades, how many centuries, of damage and invasion the tree had survived!  But the stump felled me, left me with its stake on my claim and jubilation to see that nothing of this ruin was mine, mine only the lesson that the forest has one rule: start over making use of what remains.

7. One hunk of dead Doug fir, gray as driftwood, length of my forearm, width of my hand, woodgrain deformed into swirls, eddies, backflows, and cresting waves, a measure of time, disturbances that interrupted linear growth to make it liquid as stream flow.

8. Lettuce lung (Lobaria pulmonaria), leaf lichen, upper-side dull green, turns bright green in rain, lobed, ridged surface with powdery warts, under-side tan and hairy with bald spots, texture like alligator skin, sample attached to twig falls at my feet on trail to Lookout Creek.  Day five, resampling the site, t.i.d.

9. Four metaphors for the forest.  Plantation trees: herringbone tweed.  Old growth trees: medieval brocade.  Clear cut: the broken loom.  Clear cut five years later: patches on the torn knees of jeans.

10. Skat.  Pellets the size of Atomic Fireballs, hot candy I loved as a child.  This, more oval.  Less round.  Not red.  But brown.  Specimen dropped by Roosevelt elk savoring the clear cut’s menu of mixed baby greens. One pellet broken open to reveal golden particles.  Light that traveled from sun to grass to gut to ground to mind.  Forest time makes everything round, everything broken, a story of the whole.



Listen to Alison Deming read this poem:

Glooscap in Wolfville

Off the bay ferry from Saint John,
            city Samuel de Champlain named for John the Baptist
                        when the Frenchman arrived
on saint’s feast day—named the place and sailed on.

Along Highway 1 with Digby Neck stretched
            long to the west
                        salt hay meadows downsloping
to bayshore and orchards a century old still blooming,

planted by English who’d kicked out
            French from land they’d dyked, seeded,
                        and farmed, their Grand Pré,
who’d kicked out Micmac, Maliseet, Abenaki.

Glooscap napping on Blomidon Head,
            who’d paddled his stone canoe
                        from the place before
people and animals were made, who chose green forest and red clay, 

who stayed and when the people came taught them
            to hunt and gave them purple amethysts.
                        Canadian town of fair trade coffee,
Salvadoran theater, town of sustainability and farmer’s market,

flight simulator training (“very military”), Shakespeare in summer,
            and the guy who carries
                        a folding bike in his canoe.
Town of bookstore, a woman tending glad to be back

from the ice of Inuvik who leaves me alone
            with her yippy shih tzu to browse
                        “The Saga of the Barrens,” “The Larceny of Ahjeeek,”
and “The Death Song of Chiliqui,”

animal stories from the far North while I live one
            with the dog who whines
                        for her return—
his heart grown full by absence.



Alison Hawthorne Deming is the author of four books of poems, most recently Rope (Penguin 2009), and three books of nonfiction.  She teaches at the University of Arizona and lives in Tucson near Aqua Caliente Hill.
View Comments   :   Post Comment   :   Print   :   Blog   :   Next   


Post a Comment

Comments are closed.








Home : Terrain.org. Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments.