“Books teach me to attend to this world” — a guest post by Lynn Domina

Here’s another post for Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour from Lynn Domina, the author of two collections of poetry, Corporal Works and Framed in Silence, and the editor of a collection of essays, Poets on the Psalms. She lives in the western Catskill region of New York.


After a reading I recently did at the Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse, a member of the audience asked about my frequent references to animals, from the most common (blue jays, crows) to the most bizarre (shovelnose guitarfish, spotted wobbegong). It would seem I must spend a lot of time out in nature. The truth is I spend a lot of time with books, especially those hefty expensive full-color books about animals. The books teach me to attend to this world.

They teach me to feel astonished at life in its variety. However we all got here, this abundance speaks to me of a God who thrives on infinite possibility. Who could have imagined a tiger into being?—and then changed the stripes to spots so that we could have leopards too?—and then smoothed the pattern away, adding a shaggy mane? What could be more exciting than to witness the creatures of your imagination assume life? And so, because I cannot be a god, I have become a poet. We poets know that our impulse to create most closely aligns us with the divine and with everything that has ever been created.

My problem is I want to take it all with me. When I get to heaven, I’ll be saying to God, “oh, by the way, I brought along an armadillo and a rabbit. And a giraffe. And just a couple of tadpoles.” Here is a poem, from my most recent book, Framed in Silence, that grew from this desire.

First Morning in Heaven

Clover lifts slightly, stills, the breeze a brief
silent whiff. You never knew you’d longed
so for silence. Chipmunks here
scatter quietly; field mice
nibble softened seeds. You remember reading
how giraffes only seem mute to human ears;
one female suddenly nuzzles
the top of your head, tongues
a single strawberry from your plate. You’d waited months,
swimming in Squam Lake, to hear a loon cry
until one did cry off to the north, unmistakable as people said.
Your delight fills you again; one cries here, too,
beyond sight. You recall
leafy sea dragons, the most astonishingly bizarre creatures
you ever beheld, as twigs nudge lily pads across the pond,
tousled leaves dipping beneath ripples. They survive
in the New England Aquarium
and along Australia’s southern coast,
another place you still plan to visit, if only to listen
for a kookaburra’s raucous laughter,
pocket a dropped tail feather, like this one,
left by the plump male who springs from your porch swing now.
Once you saw a blue heron lift itself from shallows;
once you saw a bobcat
amble across your road. Impossible, visions
out of time. Yet you saw
once and see again.

Check out the other posts this month from Couplets: a multi-author poetry blog tour!

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