the moth on the fringe tree—
it nags a bloom; sips and chews; then shakes
big flower. Then its wings slow. Grows
satiate, as in sex. Then
still, as the good sleep after.
bloom a white torch more than a tree’s flower.
Each is one of ten or twelve, conic, one of many
made of many green-white or white petals
held out, as by a hand, from the reach of the limb.
A field this morning was full of white moths. More
in the side yard, in the bluebottle, lifting—fog
off the dew, white wings like paper over flames
and floating awry or pieces of petal torn off.
Weeks now my words on paper have burned.
Burned and flown, like a soul on fire, with
nothing to show but ash, and the ash flies too.
Today, in the news—so
an “unnamed suicide bomber” took herself into
the arms of flame, and five others, “by her own hand.”
Whitman means the beauty of the mind is terror.
Do you think I could walk pleasantly and
well-suited toward annihilation?
But there is no likeness beyond her body
in flames, for its moment, no matter its moment.
Yet the fringe bloom burns. Yet
the moth shakes
and chews, as in sex. When the young maple
grows covered with seeds, they are a thousand
green wings, like chain upon chain of keys,
each with its tiny spark, trying the black lock.
A tumbler turns and clicks. The world once more
fills with fire, and the body, like ash, is
We were done for. Things
broken. Things ugly.
It being the shut end
of night. Morning breaking, more
like a bruise smeared through the wet few uppermost leaves.
yet light so much as less dark. They shouldn’t grow
this far north. That’s
what the book says. What book.
I meant was, each day begins in the dark.
That’s useless that’s too late that’s a pathetic thing to say—
than bees the magnolia. More primitive, the book
says, whose carpels are extremely tough. They
do not flower
in sepals. They do not want such differentiation
their flower parts, from whence the term tepals.
open, the anthers, splitting themselves out. That’s your
they split at the front facing the flower center.
16-something. Pierre Magnol. Morning
starting through them
like a purple bruise,
then a cloud, as one small pale blue
then another. That’s not right.
Flowers developed to encourage pollination by beetles. Too
early for bees. Grew
tough to avoid damage by said beetles.
—There you have it. Magnolia
of the family Magnoliaceae.
Relations have been puzzling taxonomists for a long time—
survive ice ages, tectonic uptearing, slow drift
of the continents, a distribution scattered. Things too old
change, mutinous in the half-light, and malignant.
Stop it please please. They shouldn’t be
this far north.
They bloom in a cup of pink fire, each one, lit by an old oil.
Before us the bees. Before us
the bees the beetles. These trees
—so what. We had walked out earlier, the porch, late
terrible dark night. Their
natural range a disjunct dispersal.
No light. The
magnolia. The eye begins to see. Then
horrible scrape on its trunk, his single stretching paring
the bark back. But he didn’t finish his discomfort, his
antler velvet a cloud of sawdust and scrapings beneath
small remains of a cold fire. All
night trying, then no
longer trying, that’s when we walked out. He
must have run.
What You Said
But before I died I smelled them, I could
missed them so quickly rushing elseward.
Captivation depends don’t you think on
sometimes to be caught be called
back as I was once, wet lowland where they
vernum honey-like “They have
slight fragrance” and a bright white button
of blooms “as soon as the snow melts in
wild habitat” or small pill-shaped pale
a green (occasionally yellow)
spot at the end of each tepal. Did
find them soothing, did you affiliate
—sane and sacred there—particularly
in the singing, don’t
you think it’s too late.
No I was
walking for my health, lean down
and savor there, heard bleeding the thrush throat
lilac. You have gone too far you say
things so as not to say something else. I
did wish to go back. Then
you miss them
—too early for lilac—tell
me where’s elseward—
even know what were they snowdrops
snowflakes each to keep and all and passed
as quick as that, you are
has not yet been lost is what you said—
Loop, W. W. Norton & Company, selected by Guest Ediot T.R. Hummer
As in "What You Said," recount
a conversation you've had that, for whatever reason, has stuck with you. This conversation could have happened this morning
or could have happened when you were a child. Maybe it was an argument, maybe you revealed something about yourself you didn't
intend, maybe it taught you something new, maybe it scared you. Play with language. Quote. Reflect. Be mysterious. Don't just tell the story of the conversation or
exchange, sing it.
David Baker is
author of eleven books of poetry, recently Scavenger Loop (Norton, 2015) and Never-Ending Birds (Norton),
which was awarded the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize in 2011. A dedicated poetry commentator, critic, and teacher,
he has also published six prose books about the art, including Show Me Your Environment: Essays on Poetry, Poets,
and Poems (Michigan, 2014) and Seek After: Essays on Seven Modern Lyric Poets (forthcoming in
2018). Among other awards are prizes and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Mellon Foundation,
Poetry Society of America, and the Society of Midland Authors.
David Baker lives in Granville, Ohio, where he teaches at Denison University and holds
the Thomas B. Fordham Chair of Poetry. He also teaches frequently in the Warren Wilson MFA program for writers, as well
as at many workshops, including the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, The Frost Place, Chautauqua Institute, the Fine Arts Work
Center, Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Catskills Poetry Workshop, and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshops in Italy and Ohio.
For more than twenty years has served as Poetry Editor of The Kenyon Review.
Have We Done?": A Review of David Baker's Scavenger
Loop by Sherod Santos, first published by the Boston
http://bostonreview.net/poetry/sherod-santos-david-baker-scavenger-loopWhy not, David Baker asks,
express ideas in such a way that we perceive them as sensations? That we comprehend them not as argument or discourse or information
but as lived experience—“thought through my eyes,” as Joyce described it—closing the gap in that binary
divide. This fusion occurs in the opening lines of “What Is a Weed?”:
in the leaf of the ash,
though nothing’s burned, not yet, as the ash-green,
gray-green fiery wingspan of the adult
whose bullet body and “flat black eyes” are
less the way we know them
than by the trees,
the death of the trees, by the millions.
The adults emerge, A. planipennis
(of the genus Agrilus),
in May, June…
There is a touch of virtuosity in this passage, but virtuosity
is not what holds our attention. In the first line we are presented with a simile, “as in the leaf of the ash,”
which suggests that “Emerald” is a color. But in the second line, “the leaf of the ash” (my emphasis) is prefigured as a leaf of ash,
“though nothing’s burned, not yet.” In what follows, the conflation of those two images gives rise to a
third, an amalgam of color and flame and cinder: the “ash-green, / gray-green fiery wingspan” of what, it turns
out, has caused “the death of the trees.”
But how are we meant to read that “wingspan”? As metaphor? Mythology?
Some corollary fact? The postponement of an answer, sustained through a series of strategically placed caesuras (obeying and
disobeying their syllabic constraint), gives this passage its slowly accruing syntactic power, for there are three lines still
to come before, in a sudden taxonomic turn, the source is identified: the emerald ash borer, the Asian beetle responsible
for the ecological catastrophe that, since it was first identified in 2002, has killed tens of millions of ash trees in the
midwest and northeast United States. ...
Continue reading at http://bostonreview.net/poetry/sherod-santos-david-baker-scavenger-loop
review of Scavenger Loop here
Read a review of Scavenger Loop here
wih David Baker by Kaveh Akbar, first published with DIVEDAPPER
You’ve said the oldest poems in Scavenger Loop are fifteen years
old, is that right?
Yes, that’s probably so. It takes me forever to do a book because I don’t really
do books of poems, as such, at first. I just write poems one by one, and at some point I begin to look at the math of it all
and try to shape something out of what I see there. A couple of pieces in this collection, and little bits and snatches of
the really long title sequence, go back fifteen or so years. And of course several re-re-re-re-re-re-revised poems.
I don’t think that sort of patience is very common among poets today, especially
considering the way the job market often depends upon publication.
You might be right. I don’t know
how it’s all packaged and sold and I’m not a particularly enthusiastic market person anyway. I don’t like
thinking about books as commodities and packages and products but I know they are. I get that. A few years ago it dawned on
me that the purpose of this present book was to scavenge. I wanted to pick and remember and reprocess and regenerate and sample
and find language from all over the place rather than trying to make a group of really shiny polished perfect poems. To let
some of them get a little funky or a lot funky.
The title poem is a good example of that. It opens with a seasoned garbage picker and just feels very much like scattered aggregation
of found material.
That’s what it wants to be. It wants to be in
some way unprocessed. Part of the concern of the poem is the processing of seeds and feeds and of agribusiness, things that
are so refined, so manufactured, and so chemically enhanced that they become kind of unreal. I wanted this poem to be raw
and unfinished and ...
Continue reading at https://www.divedapper.com/interview/david-baker/
Read an Interview with Baker here
Read an Interview with Baker here
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Watch a reading by Baker