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Three Poems

Age Sixty-nine

I keep waiting without knowing
what I'm waiting for.
I saw the setting moon at dawn
roll over the mountain
and perhaps into the dragon's mouth
until tomorrow evening.

There is this circle I walk
that I have learned to love.
I hope one day to be a spiral
but to the birds I'm a circle.

A thousand Spaniards died looking
for gold in a swamp when it was
in the mountains in clear sight beyond.

Here, though, on local earth my heart
is at rest as a groundling, letting
my mind take flight as it will,
no longer waiting for good or bad news.

Often, lately, the night is a cold maw
and stars the scattered white teeth of the gods,
which spare none of us. At dawn I have birds,
clearly divine messengers that I don't understand
yet day by day feel the grace of their intentions.


The moon comes up.
The moon goes down.
This is to inform you
that I didn't die young.
Age swept past me
but I caught up.
Spring has begun here and each day
brings new birds up from Mexico.
Yesterday I got a call from the outside
world but I said no in thunder.
I was a dog on a short chain
and now there's no chain.

The Quarter

Maybe the problem is that I got involved with the wrong crowd of gods when I was seven. At first they weren't harmful and only showed themselves as fish, birds, especially herons and loons, turtles, a bobcat and a small bear, but not deer and rabbits who only offered themselves as food. And maybe I spent too much time inside the water of lakes and rivers. Underwater seemed like the safest church I could go to. And sleeping outside that young might have seeped too much dark into my brain and bones. It was not for me to ever recover. The other day I found a quarter in the driveway I lost at the Mecosta County Fair in 1947 and missed out on five rides including the Ferris wheel and the Tilt-A-Whirl. I sat in anger for hours in the bull barn mourning my lost quarter on which the entire tragic history of earth is written. I looked up into the holes of the bulls' massive noses and at the brass rings puncturing their noses which allowed them to be led. It would have been an easier life if I had allowed a ring in my nose, but so many years later I still find the spore of the gods here and there but never in the vicinity of quarters.

Jim Harrison

In Search of Small Gods
Copper Canyon Press

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