Puget Sound English Department

April 14, 2010

National Poetry Month: Something Completely Different

Filed under: Creative Writing,Literature — ATH @ 4:21 pm
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Ordinarily, spring is associated with images of joy, rebirth, and celebration. Professor and author Bev Conner, however, has chosen a powerful reminder that beauty can be found in unexpected ways and places. I think I need to own a copy of this one.

Bev says of her selection: “A few years ago, I heard Alberto Rios read from his volume of poetry The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), poems set in a town that straddles the American/Mexican border. Among the poems that have stayed with me ever since, for good or for ill, is his unsparingly unsentimental “Rabbits and Fire.” As writers we’re constantly reminded to show more than we tell, that facts—specific and vivid—make the case, as Rios does here, reminding us that there is much of nature we would rather not face, like the animals every year that are caught in wildfires.”

Everything’s been said
But one last thing about the desert,
And it’s awful: During brush fires in the Sonoran desert . . .
Jackrabbits can get caught in the flames,
No matter how fast and big and strong and sleek they are . . .
And their fur catches fire.
Of course, they run away from the flame,
Finding movement even when there is none to be found,
Jumping big and high over the wave of fire, or backing
Even harder through the impenetrable
Tangle of hardened saguaro
And prickly pear and cholla and barrel . . .
They don’t know they’re on fire at first,
Running so fast . . .
But then the rabbits tire
And the fire catches up,
Stuck onto them like the needles of the cactus,
Which at first must be what they think they feel on their skins . . .
And of course, they ignite the brush and dried weeds
All over again, making more fire, all around them.
I’m sorry for the rabbits.
And I’m sorry for us
To know this.


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