American Life in Poetry: Column 692

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

John Foy is a poet living in New York whose book, Night Vision, published by St. Augustine's Press, was the winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize. I especially like this leisurely, conversational account of a walk in the woods that just at the end lifts its eyes and looks into a deeper place beyond the particulars.

Woods

I took the dog and went to walk
in the auditorium of the woods,
but not to get away from things.
It was our habit, that was all,
a thing we did on summer days,
and much there was to listen to.
A slight wind came and went
in three birches by the pond.
A crow uphill was going on
about the black life it led,
and a brown creeper went creeping up
a brown trunk methodically
with no record of ever having
been understood by anyone.
A woodpecker was working out
a deep hole from the sound of it
in a stand of dead trees up there.
And then a jay, much put upon,
complained about some treachery
it may or may not have endured,
though most are liars anyway.
The farther in, the quieter,
till only the snapping of a stick
broke the silence we were in.
The dog stood still and looked at me,
the woods by then already dark.
Much later, on the porch at night,
I heard the owl, an eldritch thing.
The dog, still with me, heard it too,
a call that came from where we'd been,
and where we would not be again.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by John Foy, "Woods," from Night Vision, (St. Augustine's Press, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of John Foy and the publisher.   Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.