American Life in Poetry: Column 759


Wallace Stevens, the great modernist poet, wrote about setting a jar down in a wild place, and how by doing so he organized that space around the jar. Here's Marilyn Dorf, a Nebraska poet, using a single goose to organize an entire landscape.

When the Red Goose Wakes

The sky a pure river of dawn
and the red goose wakes, the
breeze weaving, interweaving
leaves newly turned.
In the valley a song,
with no one to sing it,
some voice of the past
or the future. The red goose
sets her wings and answering
some promise she's made
to the WILD, enters that river
of sky, neck stretched
toward heaven, maybe beyond,
tail nothing but a carnelian
nubbin fading to sunglow.
And you, stunned to a silence
the size of the world.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Marilyn Dorf, "When the Red Goose Wakes," from Platte Valley Review, (Vol. 33, no. 1, 2012). Poem reprinted by permission of Marilyn Dorf and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 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.