Barbara Kingsolver has a new book of poetry out – “How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons)”. It is marvelous.

Her poems are readable, easy on the ears, honest; they cut to the heart of things. They sometimes feel like hard-won wisdom; they are never smug or self-satisfied.

Her poems sound like poems written by a novelist. Words are workaday things that might take you somewhere transcendent.

I’d love to share a few of her poems with you this week, as bones knit…


Matabele ants,
named for a warrior tribe
alleged to be the cruelest,
go marching nightwise
launching their quotidian
genocide on their neighbors
the termites whose only
job is to inherit the earth.

Meekly they wait,
eating their lot of soil
to improve its nature.
Pitilessly they come,
the raiding warriors
six hundred strong
storming the chambers,
crushing pale bodies
to carry off for fodder
but always stopping
short of the full execution.
They leave the queen alive.

The Victorians wrote of
Nature red in tooth and claw,
knowing not the half of it:
still undiscovered, the likes
of the disciplined Matabele
ants that spare the crown;
or the civil virus houseguest
that visits for five days
and then departs before
its sniffling host succumbs.
Nature is nothing if not
a congress of partial kindness.
And who is to say
where cruelty and mercy
may lie down together
to make their mottled children?

In the sickbed from which
the newly hale will rise
and go forth to shed the
seeds of their affliction.
In the throbbing abdomen
of one queen alone
in her darkness, pulsing
eggs, beginning again
the rearing of future
fodder, attuned to a rogue
vibration listening
for the barbarians at the gate.

*      *      *

Photo by Jack Barnwell at Lake Tillery, NC (copyright reserved)


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