My poem “Attention” is included in my chapbook “Cyanometer” (Finishing Line Press, 2021). On December 6, 2019, this poem, along with the work of several other amazing poets, was performed by actors at the Rhythm and Verse Salon, which was founded by Susan Robbins (http://www.rhythmandversesalon.com/past-salons.htm) here in Philadelphia PA. It was not until I heard the accomplished actor Emma Gibson bring my poem alive with her clear and perceptive reading that it occurred to me that this poem is my “Ars Poetica.”
An Ars Poetica is described as “a poem that explains the ‘art of poetry,’ or a meditation on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem.”
This poem was inspired by a rabbit I saw in my own backyard. She looked so alert. It was as if all of her senses were tuned in, as if she heard and sensed everything in her body and everything around her. And as she was alert to the world around her, I was alert to her.
Without even realizing it, when I imagined the point of view of the rabbit, I was also meditating on my process as a poet. When I write, I pay attention in a different way. You might call it a form of mindfulness. I’m trying to reach with all my senses, observe as much as I can and then try to put that all into words, being mindful to each word and its music, reaching for that which the words just can’t hold.
Wishing you all a mindful and poetic season of light.
Attention: Ars Poetica
Hindquarters catch up with forelegs,
the rabbit sits,
nose deep in green clover
feeding on fragrance atom by atom
harelip shredding grass.
Its dark eyes, all pupil,
perceive all directions.
Ears cup and drink
rising twilight, the buzzing insects
the song of bats, barn owl shrieking.
The rabbit knows by heart
the exact distance to shelter
by frantic zigzag dash.
In this corner of the yard
generations have nibbled
summer and winter weight of padded feet.
Last season, the season before that
camouflaged in scrubby woods
taking refuge in the burrows of woodchucks.
Cycles of mating seasons, of litters, born
in scratched-out nests lined with doe’s fur.
Daylight hours spent sheltering
in the shade of a hedgerow.
At dusk venturing
in search of timothy,
or the fare stolen from vegetable gardens
costly and rare.
The scent of night gathering.
The muffled beat of wings
this belly, this sensate air
this alfalfa blade of sweet living.