Saturday Dec 02

WolffDaniel Daniel Wolff has published poetry in The Paris Review, Partisan Review, and Three Penny Review, among others.  His latest non-fiction book is How Lincoln Learned to Read: 12 Great Americans and the Educations That Made Them.  A Grammy nominee, he’s currently working with director Jonathan Demme on a documentary about citizens returning to New Orleans. These poems are from a manuscript, “The Names of Birds.”


Herring Gull


At the very top story of night,
a white gull wails, wheeling.

How would I know if
it were telling the truth? I'm not.

Above the crust of light at the rim of the sky,
a few stars survive the glow of earth.

It's a common thing, a scavenger.
It cries at the edge of what works.



Red-Winged Blackbird


The red-winged blackbird announces spring
by announcing itself: a series of clicks,
a rising song, a flash of red.

Winter is dead.
No. That's wrong. Just one of the tricks
that order can bring.

Moments after the blackbird calls,
a siren sounds.
Somewhere downtown, flame unwinds,

and the fireman finds
out where to respond
by counting the wailing lifts and falls.

The blackbird's like the willow tree:
early to announce and easy to connect
to change – sudden color on sullen gray.

But hard as I listen to the way
spring builds, I still can't decipher the wreck
of winter. What's gone? And how do we

know? By naming, I guess. By numbering the days.
Our version of praise.