Friday, November 21, 2014

First memory

This is the closing poem in the book Ararat.


Orchard (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

First Memory

     --Louise Glück

Long ago, I was wounded. I lived 
to revenge myself 
against my father, not 
for what he was-- 
for what I was: from the beginning of time, 
in childhood, I thought 
that pain meant 
I was not loved. 
It meant I loved.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Simple Curriculum Framework To Hold Us in Good Stead



Making (Grade 1, Newark)

Today's my birthday and I want to remember that aesthetic methods of teaching-learning can be fashioned into a simple, yet essential framework to organize ways of knowing. The framework below is adapted from Eric Booth's important work on art that he outlines in The Everyday Work of Art. I'd recommend it.

Here's the framework:

  1. Make things with meaning.
  2. Explore the things others have made.
  3. Bring the skills, dispositions, and strategies from # 1 and #2 into active play in your daily life.
Booth recommends locating these three acts within 3 worlds:
  1. Making worlds.
  2. Exploring worlds.
  3. Reading the world.  (I change this to Composing the world).
That's it.
Now compare this with all of the standards and frameworks that we currently labor beneath.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Necessity of Things Falling Apart: Bearing Witness

Twilight, In Beween (M.A. Reilly, 2014)
"Discourse, lives as it were, on the boundary between its own control and  another alien context" (Bakhtin, 1981, 284)
I.

I was working with some teachers recently and one asked about a plan we had revised. Her exasperation was both statement and question. I sensed she was wondering whether this version of the plan would last the length of the school year.  Was it sturdy enough? Correct? 

Surely it was indelicate on my part, but I told her most likely this revision would fall apart too--perhaps as soon as 6 or 8 weeks.  She paused and then laughed and I was thankful for her sense of humor. And I thought--not for the first time--that I might have tried for better words. 

Most everything falls apart, especially plans made for others. Plans are less the road we actually make and more the breath we exhale as we pause, slightly, before breathing again and walking on. Nothing stands still and plans, written, are the epitome of such truth.

I wanted to tell her that our teaching plans will change because we will have some new thinking. They will change because we were wrong.  I wanted to say that the kids will show us that what we thought was essential has become less so.  I wanted to suggest that our work is not to follow made plans verbatim, but to read the landscape as learning emerges. Becoming, not being, is cool comfort in the face of doubt. I wanted to lay down words like breadcrumbs, beg the birds to stay away, but I offered her only silence and a nod. And perhaps each was the better utterance than words I might have sounded. 

The space to doubt is a gift. 

II.

I was thinking about all of this as I waited in the doctor's examination room reading Bud Hunt's recent post, On Hope. Bud posits that it's hope he'll sidle up to in the wake of doubt--doubt that rises alongside made plans underway, plans that surely will begin to show their wear as plans do. 

I was thinking about the folks in Bud's story. He's involved in a 1:1 initiative where he works.  He writes:
And certainly some folks have begun to wonder about the bad and possibly risky pieces of our plan to allow for more access to technology and the Internet to students as everyday habits in teaching and learning.  I do hear some people who are certain that things and networks will be used for evil rather than good.  “Let’s lock stuff down,” they say, “because students with too much ability and opportunity are bound to go astray.”
Back in 2009, I rewrote board policy at a large NJ public high school to allow unrestricted Internet access for students. At that time, students were not allowed to use any Internet ready devices without facing disciplinary action. It was not unusual to see high school admins busy confiscating phones. "If I see your phone, it's mine" was well in play eating up copious amounts of time. Further, students at the high school and middle school were not allowed to bring their own devices to school without written permission.  And then they could not access the Internet.  We were locked down and safe.

It took some months to rally interest and support, but eventually support was garnered and the policy changes were enacted by the Board. Alongside these changes, we also were ensuring wireless environments at all district schools and updating hardware so that in the period of 15 months a 1:2 environment was present at the high school and eventually a 1:1 environment at the middle school.

As I think about what Bud wrote I am reminded that it is the in between spaces of what was and what might be that doubt most surely raises its head. I can recall the urgent voices that prophesized doom at both schools. "Only a fool would let 1500 kids access the Internet on whim," one high school teacher shouted at me. "Do you have any idea the problems this will cause?"

Sometimes, plans displace what we did not know we valued. Other times they nudge at beliefs about order and control that we aren't quite ready to part company with even when we profess the opposite. To be human is to know wear. I suspect it's one reason we love the new plan. So shiny, so full of possibility. Change often represents necessary losses and any loss is rarely comfortable. As I think about Bud and his dilemma I realize that it is what we reach to fill these losses, small and grand--personal and societal, that seem most to matter.  

Bud reaches for hope--the thing with feathers.

III.

And so this was on my mind when my doctor, a family friend, stepped into the examination room. Rob had taught all three of his children and across the last 15 years our family and his have developed a friendship. His children are the type of young people who fill both Rob and me with hope--with the belief in a better world than the one we have now.  Dr. R. is Egyptian and deeply involved in the politics that are (re)framing his country. And so it was with much interest that I listened to him talk about continued turmoil there and how people are invested in magical-religious thinking as the basis for answers to small and large problems. He tells me with a certain sadness, "the book has been lost." 

The book has been lost.

Later, I'll think that the book may surely have been lost, perhaps even that the book needed to be lost, but stories less so. I'm reminded of John Connolly's (2006) wonder-filled book, The Book of Lost Things. The subject of the story, 12-year-old David, loses his mother. She dies. The narrator tells us:
Before she became ill, David’s mother would often tell him that stories were alive. They weren’t alive in the way that people were alive, or even dogs or cats...Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud...they had no real existence in our world....Stories wanted to be read, David’s mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life (p. 3).
Hope is a story we tell. It's the witness we bear when hearing another's tale. Hope is without past or future. It is emergence--a narrative sans beginning, middle or end. Hope may well be what we reach for during in between times.

IV.

After David's mother dies, he thinks about how still his life has become without the rushing to and from that had been such a part of his life while his mother was ill. 
Instead, there was only the kind of silence that comes when someone takes away a clock to be repaired and after a time you become aware of its absence because its gentle, reassuring tick is gone and you miss it so (p.13).
When things fall apart, the reassuring tick of what has been is gone. This is when we most need courage to face another person's uncertainty, as well as our own. Such acts are ones of hope.


Cited:
Bakhtin, M.M. (1981).  The Dialogic Imagination. Austin, TX: University of Texas.
Connolly, John (2006). The Book of Lost Things: A Novel. Atria Books. Kindle Edition.  



Sunday, November 16, 2014

25+ Recommended Children's Picture Books for Teaching Literary Techniques

Bruchac, Joseph.  (1995). The Earth Under Sky Bear's Feet: Native American Poems of the Land.  Illustrated by Thomas Locker. New York:  Philomel Books.   
  • A collection of 12 poems that offer Native American explanations of nature.
  • Of particular note is the cohesion Bruchac achieves through voice, simile, repetition, dialogue, and sensory details. 











Buchmann, Steven and Diana Cohn. (2012). The Bee Tree. Illustrated by Paul Mirocha. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press.
  • In this book we learn about Nizam and his family who live near a rainforest preserve in Malaysia, and the tualang trees of that forest have been at the center of an important clan tradition, the honey hunt, for as far back as anyone can remember. Nizam’s grandfather, Pak Teh, calls upon his grandson to continue the tradition. Nizam wants to make Pak Teh proud, but worries about whether he is brave enough to climb 120 feet into the rainforest canopy at night and trick the angry giant bees out of their honey. 
  • Of note are the authors' use of narrative and explanatory text and their use of similes. Such as: 

  1. We enter the forest as if visiting a neighbor’s house.
  2. The bees roar past like a raging monsoon, swarming after the glowing sparks falling to the ground.
  3. Holding the comb in my hand is like discovering a treasure chest of gold. 
  4. Just as the bess return to the rainforest every year, I will do the same.”


Christian, Peggy. (2008). If You Find a Rock.  Photos by Barbara Hirsch Lember. New York:
Sandpiper.

  • A book length picture book poem about different types of rocks and their uses. 
  • Barbara Hirsch Lember colored the black-and-white photographs she made
  • Of particular note is the author's use of 2nd person, direct address; use of repetition, and strong verbs.


Cooney, Barbara. (1988).  Island Boy. New York: Puffin Books.

  • Cooney tells the story of Matthais and the legacy he inherits and builds on Tibbets Island. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of: alliteration ("crowned by spiky spruce trees..."),  diction ("soft salt air wafting up...", "...moored their pleasure boats", ), internal rhyme ("behind it in the bay, lay the other islands...", "He hopped and flopped..."), motif (wild bird), parallel structure ("felled the trees and cleared the north end...", "ploughing and planting, and chopping"), use of proper nouns and specific nouns ("The Egg Rock...",  "Gulls, terns...cormorants...eiders...sea pigeons"), syntactical repetition ("It was he who...", "Pa taught...He taught...And he taught...", The ship carried...The Six Brothers carried...it carried..."),



Crews, Donald. (1998). Bigmama’s. New York: Greenwillow Books. 
  • In this memoir, four African-American children and their mother travel by train to visit grandparents in a rural town. When the family reaches its destination, the children inspect each room of the house. Outside, they investigate the yard, the toolshed, the barn, the stable, and, finally, the pond. To their everlasting delight and satisfaction, they see that everything is "still the same."
  • Of particular note is the author's use of narration, dialogue, diction and sensory detail.


Daly, Niki. (2007). Pretty Salma: A Little Red Riding Hood Story from Africa. New York: Clarion Books.
  • This Red Riding Hood story is set in Ghana. When Pretty Salma is sent to the market by Granny, she takes a short-cut through the bad side of town and meets a Bad Dog who tricks and steals her sandals, clothing and goodies. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of characterization and the use of illustrations to mimic and accentuate plot detail.


DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins. 
  • This is a story about a girl, Marcy, who along with her neighbors helps to clean up an abandoned lot in a city. At first Old man Hammer, Marcy's neighbor opposes the work.  He has a change of heart.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of of a plot and subplot, along with characterization and simile.


Elya, Susan Middleton. (2006). Home at Last. Illustrated by Felipe Davalos. New York: Lee & Low Books. 
  • In this story we learn that Ana Patiño and her family have just moved to the United States from Mexico and although Ana learns to speak English, her mother does not as she thinks learning another language will be impossible. An incident happens that makes Ana’s mother change her mind about learning English.
  • Of particular note is the author's development of dynamic characters and use of circular structure (opening and closing).

from In the Garden with Dr. Carver. 
Gringsby, Susan. (2010). In the Garden with Dr. Carver. Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
  • In this story the reader meets Sally, a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton
  • production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grownups with their farms and the children with their school garden.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of personification ("But cotton, like a hungry monster, had gobbled up the good foods in Alabama’s soil. Dr. Carver was showing folks how to make our poor soil healthy again."), and the use of similes ("Before you change or destroy something, you need to understand why it exists and its relationship with the rest of nature. The plants, the soil, and the animals that visit are all connected , just like a web." and "Some people come in and out of your life, as quick as a hummingbird darting a trumpet vine.").

from Frog Song.
Guiberson, Brenda Z. (2013). Frog Song. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
  • In this informational text, Brenda Guiberson introduces the reader to eleven unique frogs from different places in the world. The illustrations are portraits of each frog painted by Gennady Spirin. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use strong verbs (“bellow, clang, rattle, sing, trill, warble, whistle"), parallel structure, and onomatopoeia.

Guiberson, Brenda Z. (2009). Life in a Boreal Forest. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. New York: Henry Holt.
  • This book explains about the great northern forest—the boreal forest that is home to a unique ecosystem of animals and plants. It covers one-third of the earth’s total forest area and is home to so many birds that it is known as “North America’s bird nursery.” The forest is a treasure trove of riches, but it’s threatened by increased human development and climate changes. Amazing illustrations (paintings) by Gennady Spirin.
  • Of particular note is the author's use onomatopoeia, strong verbs/participles, parallel structure, and the author's explanation of scientific processes.

from  Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights.
Haskins, Jim. (2005). Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. New York: Lee & Low Books.

  • This picture book biography tells of W.W. Law and chronicles how he grows up in Savannah, GA which at the time is segregated, joins the NACCP, and fights for civil rights. He led the Great Savannah Boycott in 1960-1961. Law represented non-violent change. Savannah was the first of the southern cities to end racial discrimination. Andrews highly stylized art extends and complicates the text. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of embedded context clues for key terms ("...segregated...Westley went to a separate school...Drink from water fountain marked "Colored"...could not sit at ...lunch counter."), diction (...kneel-ins...wade-ins..."), extended metaphor ("...singing together made a thunderous sound. And that mighty noise mad people think that perhaps working together they could really make something happen.", "delivered more than just the mail...he delivered justice."),  parallel structure ("...cooking, cleaning and taking care..."), strong verbs ("lured...", "...yelled and jeered..." ), and use of subheadings.

Hesse, Karen. (1999). Come On, Rain. Illustrated by Jon Muth. New York: Scholastic.
  • “Come on, Rain!" Tess pleads to the sky as listless vines and parched plants droop in the endless heat. Then the clouds roll in and the rain pours. Tess, her friends, and their mothers dance to celebrate the shower. Let’s read and see what Tess experiences and how the author uses specific words to convey those experiences.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of participles; sensory details, and characterization.


from Henry's Night

Johnson, D.B.  & Linda Michelin. (2009). Henry's Night. Illustrated by D.B. Johnson.  New York:
Houghton Mifflin.

  • This narrative recounts Henry's nighttime walk in search of the elusive whippoorwill.  Henry is a bear who is fashioned after Henry David Thoreau. The illustrations by Johnson have an ethereal quality to them and help to extend the idea of the uncertainty that frames Henry's nighttime quest. 
  • Specifically, Johnson & Michelin's diction, use of strong verbs (drift, tolling, float, capture, wings, stride, trips, flashes, leap, snags, slide, flow), inclusion of onomatopoeia and other sensory details, use of first-person narration, personification, and magical realism, tension via the advance of the clock [a trope], symbolism of the quest to find the bird that has not been seen.
  • Phrases & sentences worth noting: "I sit up to my chin in night...," "There is no path.", "Clouds erase the moon." "Here where the woods end, all is quiet." "I feel the beat of its bird heart." "The raft, the fog, the bird's song and I--are all as light as morning air."

from  Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt.
McKissack, Patricia. (2008). Stichin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt. Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. New York: Random House.

  • For a hundred years, generations of women from Gee’s Bend, Alabama have quilted together, sharing stories, trading recipes, singing hymns—all the while stitchin’ and pullin’ thread through cloth. Every day Baby Girl listens, watches, and waits, until she’s called to sit at the quilting frame. Piece by piece, she puzzles her quilt together, telling not just her story as she grows up, but the story of her family, the story of Gee’s Bend, and the story of justice and freedom that her ancestors’ struggled to attain. She tells these stories through a series of poems.
  • Of particular note is how the author tells a extended story about Baby Girl growing up across a series of poems.  Further the author's use of repetition, sensory detail, metaphor, historical incidents and recollections are well done.  I have used this text to introduce 2nd graders to: line, stanza, speaker, tone, theme, and subject.


Medina, Tony. (2002). Love to Langston. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. New York: Lee & Low Books.

  • This series of 14 poems work together to convey the life and attitudes of Langston Hughes. The illustrations by R. Gregory Christie complicate and extend meaning. At the end of the text are fourteen brief notes that shed biographical information on each poem based on a recounting of critical experiences of Langston Hughes.  
  • The difference in diction between the poems and the explanations would make for a good lesson as well. Specifically, speaker's voice, use of repetition, internal rhymes, metaphor, alliteration, consonance, and rhythm are all of note.




Mora, Pat. (2005). Dona Flor: A Tall Tale about a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • In this tall tale,  Doña Flor is a giant lady who lives in a tiny village in the American Southwest. Popular with her neighbors, she lets the children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts. Flor loves to read, too, and she can often be found reading aloud to the children. One day, all the villagers hear a terrifying noise: it sounds like a huge animal bellowing just outside their village. Everyone is afraid, but not Flor.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor, dialect, exaggeration, and personification.
Nivola, Claire A. (2008). Planting the Trees of Kenya. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 
  • Claire Nivola tells the story of Wangari Muta Maathai’s effort to change the fate of her land by teaching many to care for it. An author’s note provides further information about Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of story cohesion by circular opening and closing and integration of quotations by Maathai.







Nolen, Jerdine. (2003). Thunder Rose. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. San Diego, CA: Silver Whistle/Harcourt.

  • In this tall tale, Thunder Rose astounds all, grapples with drought, and saves the day. Fabulous and playful illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor, dialect, exaggeration, and personification.









Park, Linda Sue. (2004). The Firekeeper’s Son. Illustrated by Julie Downing. New York: Sandpiper.

  • This story is set in Korea in the early 1800s before telegraphs were widely used and telephones had been invented. It tells a story about an incident that happened when Sang-hee’s father failed to light the signal fire.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor/simile ("Sang-hee ran up the mountain path. He knew the path like a friend. But tonight it was not at all friendly” (p. 20), development of historical setting, personification (“Then a tongue of flame licked the tinder. It ate all the tinder and the reached greedily for the brush. Soon the whole pile was aflame"), and characterization through actions and thoughts.

Prévert, Jacques. (2007). How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird. Illustrated by Mordecai Gernstein. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
  • In this book-length poem, a young boy wakes up and sees a bright colored bird perched on his windowsill and decides to entice the bird into a painting, hoping that the bird will sing for him. This book explores creativity.
  • The illustrations help to explain and extend meaning.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of direct address, simple syntax, and parenthetical.



Ramirez, Antonio. (2004). Napí. Illustrated by Domi. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books. 

  • This narrative is set in the Mexican state of Oaxaca Napí and tells of a young Mazateca girl who lives with her family in a village on the bank of a river. Each afternoon she listens to her grandfather's stories. As she listens, she imagines different colors — orange, purple, violet, and green. When night comes, the trees fill with white herons settling on their branches. The ceiba tree, which she sits beneath listening to her grandfather, sends Napí dreams every night. 
  • Of particular note is the author's use of magical realism, narration, strong characterization, personification ("...the afternoon dresses itself in many different colors.”), and circular beginning and ending to text.

Richards, Jean. (2002). A Fruit is a Suitcase for Seeds. Illustrated by Anca Hariton. Minneapolis, MN: First Avenue Editions.
  • In this book Richards writes about seeds, their purpose, and growth.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of extended metaphor. 

Rodriguez, Rachel Victoria. (2009). Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudí. Illustrated by Julie Paschkis. New York: Henry Holt.
  • This is a picture book biography of architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí turned nature into art, and in the process he revolutionized the world of architecture.
  • Of particular note is the author's use of  strong verbs and parallel structure (“For him, the world is Cantalonia. Mountain peaks jag against the sky. Silvery olive trees sway in the breeze. The sea sparkles blue.”and  “Cherries hang overhead. Birds wheel around and soar to the sky.)

from The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems.
Rosen, Michael. J. (2009). The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems. Illustrated by Stan Fellows. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
  • In spare and graceful words, Michael J. Rosen captures the call of the mysterious cuckoo as well as essential characteristics of more than twenty commonly seen North American birds. The artist, Stan Fellows, creates watercolors to accompany the poems. 
  • Of particular note is the author's blending of haiku alongside explanatory text. The haikus are surprising.

from The Storm Book. 
Zolotow, Charlotte. (1952/1980). The Storm Book. Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham. New York: HarperTrophy.

  • A brief story about summer rainstorm that is highly lyrical.  The text opens with the approach of a storm on summer's day in the country that the reader experiences through a young child, before shifting to provide brief accountings of the the storm in a city, at the seashore, in the mountains, before returning to the boy at his home and the storm passing. 
  • Without question, this text is sensory feast.  Zolotow wants her reader to experience the heat of the day that gives way to a summer storm, and the passing of that storm. 
  • Throughout, Zolotow makes use of strong verbs (A queer yellow light spreads...", ) personification ("When the thunder roars), similes ("The lightning was like a wild white wolf running free in the woods  and lamp like a gentle white terrier who came when the little boy called."), alliteration ("A young husband herds his sheep to shelter."), assonance ("...where not a breath stirs and the birds don't sing.", "...sharp quick twitterings..."),  parallel structure ("But the hazy sky begins to shift, and the yellow heat turns gray."), onomatopoeia ("It beats a loud tattooing pitpatpatting on the roof,,,"),  rhythm ("The loud pitpatpatting on the roof grows softer and softer, and slowly becomes a dull pit-a-pat, pit-pit-pit, and at last stops altogether."),  diction  ("...an old fisherman stands boot-deep in the waves...splatter against his oilskin," "A queer yellow light,"),  and multiple settings.


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sea Stories as a Form of Learning


Morning Over the Irish Sea (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

“It wasn’t, of course, the beginning, for who can say where a voyage begins—not the actual passage but the dream of a journey and its urge to find a way” (William Least Heath-Moon, River Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America, 2001. p. 4)

I.

I don't know what my reaction was when I first saw the sea.  Nor can I know with any certainty where that first sighting happened. Perhaps that is why I have such a fondness for stories. They open spaces and allow for untold possibility.  Being human and incomplete, I know that such gifts are hard to turn away.

And so I'm telling you here that the first sighting may or may not have been the Irish Sea. Born less than a mile from it and then next residing in Dublin for a few years--the chances are high, yes?  Or perhaps I first spied the sea when the plane lifted, banked towards the west, away from what had been home, lifted that November day from the Dublin airport. I like to imagine that below the wing, the sea green sea spread like a Walter Kuhlman painting, you know that murky dark painting of his,  Sunset on the Irish Sea, 1976 . That lovely work with just the hint of soft impossible light.

II.

We are all soft impossible light some days. And it is the impossible I often seek as I know that no one can tell me the truth of that day, of that leaving.

III.

What I do recall is that the first time I felt the sea was some years later when I now lived in the United States. I'm with my family and some friends of my parents and we are at the Shore, the Jersey shore. Lavallette, I suspect. I'm playing, lying in the sand, when a wave washes over me.

A baptism of sorts, my da would say. Perhaps the best sort.

This recollection too is a construction of parts: recall of what I have been told.  A picture I found. A juxtaposition of truths.

For stories can be true, especially when we know so little.
Stories are always true, even when they are filled with lies.


IV.

Not knowing allows for possibility. I return to the sea each year, a journey in which I feel so transient. A passport forgotten.

I am rarely home when I am far from the sea.




To See Takes Time: Georgia O'Keeffe









Today is Georgia O'Keeffe's birthday.  So much we can learn from her.

To See Takes Time (M.A. Reilly, 2009)

“Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time - we haven't time - and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”   - Georgia O'Keeffe


Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetry Break: Mortal Limit

Birds in Flight (M.A. Reilly, 2014, Wales)

Mortal Limit


 -    Robert Penn Warren
I saw the hawk ride updraft in the sunset over Wyoming.
It rose from coniferous darkness, past gray jags
Of mercilessness, past whiteness, into the gloaming
Of dream-spectral light above the lazy purity of snow-snags.

There--west--were the Tetons.  Snow-peaks would soon be
In dark profile to break constellations.  Beyond what height
Hangs now the black speck?  Beyond what range will gold eyes see
New ranges rise to mark a last scrawl of light?

Or, having tasted that atmosphere’s thinness, does it
Hang motionless in dying vision before
It knows it will accept the mortal limit,
And swing into the great circular downwardness that will restore

The breath of earth?  Of rock?  Of rot?  Of other such
Items, and the darkness of whatever dream we clutch?