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a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society

Section 2: Encounter

Michael McGriff

Michael McGriff
Meditation at Point Lobo Substation
It’s not enough to be loved.
Sometimes it takes
the hydraulic voice
of a Swainson’s thrush
on the far end
of the tunnel its song bores
through the underbrush.
Sometimes it requires
a sack of antlers
to rip open
on a snag
and rain down
through the trees.
Dark Field
As for the blue flame
of my dream
and the long shadows
that crowd the barn at dusk
in the living world
both are the headwaters of the other
and in both the owls
are the white masts
of white ships
they roost
in the alders
they ornament
the landscape
like thoughts
hung out to dry
they nestle
a treecrook deep
or slump in place
their heads
make slow orbits
around their voices
of smoke
it’s obvious now
that an owl in a dream
and an owl at dusk
are each a nautical instrument
kept in a drawer
when I open it
by its loose glass nob
I hear the gray wing
of my mother’s breath
navigate the stars
as she irons
her linen napkins
in a room whose light
dances off the hutch
in the past tense
the air around us
my mother and I
could be a Swedish novel
titled The Dark Lantern
in which the engine
of an owl
is driven by empty
wooden spools
and sideways looks
an owl hisses
in my dream
shifting one foot
to the other
like a sailor
come to port
it whistles back
from the dusklight
as the barn door
slides on its rollers
iron ore pumps
through its wings
it flashes forth
like the night’s pickpocket
its eye afloat
in a suspension
of gypsum and ash
if you see an owl
before it sees you
then your name
enters into a ledger
whose purpose
is also the purpose
of the blue flame burning
toward the dark field
of its wick.
Michael McGriff is an author, editor, and translator. He was born and raised in Coos Bay, Oregon, and attended the University of Oregon, The Michener Center for Writers, and Stanford University. He is the co-author, with J. M. Tyree, of the linked story collection Our Secret Life in the Movies, which was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014. His poetry collections include Home Burial, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice selection, Dismantling the Hills, and a forthcoming volume, Early Hour. He is the translator of Nobel laureate Tomas Traströmer’s The Sorrow Gondola and is the editor of a volume of David Wevill’s essential writing, To Build My Shadow a Fire. He is a former Stegner Fellow and Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and his work has been honored with a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Poetry, The Believer, Tin House, American Poetry Review, and on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and PBS NewsHour. He is as an assistant professor of poetry in the English Department at the University of Idaho.



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