Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Ellery Akers: What I Know

How to hold a kinglet in my hand 
so I don’t break its wings 
and it doesn’t bite my thumb,
how it lies in my palm, stunned,
until it starts up and bolts into the air
 
I know the mustards—the Cruciferae—
some of the snapdragons, some of the vetch— 
 
On the Farallones, I know the cliffs: the calls: 
the shrieking in the air
 
I know the murmur from a thousand murre throats
as a peregrine flies over the colony, 
and one by one, they take off, frightened,
then dozens, hundreds, and sprinkle into the sea
 
I know the sound of a humpback 
slapping the water with his fin,
his breath stinking of krill, 
the sound of his spout
like a steam engine hissing
 
I’ve seen the way spray lifts over Arch Rock 
and runnels down 
and soaks all the sleeping sea lions
so their pelts turn dark
 
I’ve seen fish veering at the same time,
mackerel, sardines
 
I know which tracks are skink tracks
in the forest 
I know how to find the star zigadene every spring
 
I know the history of this snag:
I was here when an owl landed
and a branch broke and the owl flapped away
 
I know the names of the machines 
that cut down the forest–
feller buncher, shovel logger, tower yarder, 
stroke delimber, skidder
 
I don’t know how to safeguard,
stand in front of, shelter
except to speak
as if a word could shelter  
but I don’t know what word that would be

Ellery Akers’ latest book is Swerve: Poems on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Resistance (1st World Publishing, 2020).

Copyright 2020 Ellery Akers

Fremont’s Star Lily, aka Star Zigadene (Zigadenus fremontii)

4 comments on “Ellery Akers: What I Know

  1. johnlawsonpoet
    May 4, 2020

    Reblogged this on Site Title.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine
    May 4, 2020

    Just ordered the book. Ellery Akers is a beautiful person and she writes beautiful poetry. This was the poem I needed today. Thank you Ellery!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barbara Huntington
    May 4, 2020

    One poem and I will find her book. I only know to plant natives in my garden and show passers by the butterflies.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Beth Peyton
    May 4, 2020

    Beautiful. Profound.

    Liked by 1 person

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