Voices from the American Land

Patricia Clark
Patricia Clark

Patricia Clark is the author of three books of poetry: She Walks Into the Sea, My Father on a Bicycle, and North of Wondering, and is co-editor of Worlds in our Words, an anthology of contemporary women writers. Her poetry has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Poetry, and many other literary magazines and journals. Poet-in-Residence and Professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University, she has made her home for the past twenty years in the very Michigan woods of which she writes. She is author of the third in the Voices chapbooks series, Given the Trees.

Home's Nest c. Shilin Hora

Drawing © Shilin Hora

The illustrations in this issue are by Candian print-maker Shilin Hora. She is the founder of Grow Studio, an collaborative arts community in Montreal, and exhibits her work widely in the U.S. and Canada.


About Given the Trees

In this issue of Voices from the American Land, Patricia Clark, one of our most accomplished poets of the natural world, takes her readers on enchanting journeys through the woodlands of her home state of Michigan. Here the reader can experience how two hawks, working the ravine updraft in tandem cause a rush of fear, how one can lie down under a willow and wake caressed, how one becomes a hamadryad, sorceress, water and depth-seeker, counting the months till summer. Throughout, the poet surprises us with what editor Charles Little calls “transcendental monments,” those sudden perceptions of a numinous interaction of nature and spirit that come to those who observe nature closely and with an open heart.


Poems by Patricia Clark:

Hamadryad

Imagine flowering in early fall on leafless twigs—
that’s one of the witch hazel’s magic traits.

And the fruit capsule, when dried, can shoot its seed
a full thirty feet—a tree that can move.

When it waits, as it does now, not wilting,
not allowing one leaf to yellow or to drop—

waits in the same black plastic pot, dusty,
it arrived in from the nursery, when it rustles

a bit in the slight breeze, surely there’s a hint
of its ultimate divinity—.

Our fates have become linked, both about to be
planted by the ravine-edge—

there to soar, to ride the night and morning air,
going through turns of the moon, tumbles of storm,

lightning, snow, and rain. When I seek shelter,
I abandon it to the understory—

calling myself hamadryad and also sorceress, water-
and depth-seeker—counting the months till I can

cut a branch for dowsing, divining—eager to feel
that downward tug of a forked branch toward water,

drawn to the underground current that flows here—
rushing cold, running, loaded with snow-melt, tree-juice.


Under the Mead Moon

Whisper back to me, leaf upon leaf, how the tendril
reaches first to find a hold, to twine itself
a fastness upon a lower stem—

a green cascading waterfall of leaf, vine, another
petiole and leaf, a linkage, a lash, a notch,
and then a dollar-coin sized leaf and leaf.

From my window, I see how these make a roof,
an open-sided hut clambering over a bush’s
architecture—and I’d go on living there,

learning to love there, if I could, under the mead moon.
The floor’s a crackling dust of broken leaf and stem,
soft enough for bedding down, a coverlet of wind.

The air’s not sorrowful yet, not strangled or moist,
pine tree dry, almost citrus, the cool updraft from a fold
in earth, a labial fold like the petal of a rose.

One grows nearby, you’ll see. If it’s possible to gaze upward,
seeing through transparent green to blue, then I vow
to ascend the ladder rungs the one stalk has left,

the mustard garlic that dropped its load of blooms
but hid away the seed kernels, falling to earth
awaiting next spring’s heat—then I’d be the intrepid

journeywoman climbing rung upon higher rung,
this is the way, yes—the house a far off room
of its own, cold outpost, and the stars leaving it
in dark but illuminating all that is magic here.


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