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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Heaven of Animals

(James Dickey, poet laureate, 1966-1968, with Burt
Reynolds on the set of Deliverance, the movie based
on his best-selling novel)


Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

~ James Dickey (1923-1997), American poet and novelist

1 comment:

Sally Thomas said...

I love this poem, and hadn't thought about it in years. Thanks for posting it.

My other favorite Dickey poem: "A Screened Porch in the Country."