Linda Gregg

Winner of the William Carlos Williams Award in 2009

Let Birds

Eight deer on the slope
in the summer morning mist.
The night sky blue.
Me like a mare let out to pasture.
The Tao does not console me.
I was given the Way
in the milk of childhood.
Breathing it waking and sleeping.
But now there is no amazing smell
of sperm on my thighs,
no spreading it on my stomach
to show pleasure.
I will never give up longing.
I will let my hair stay long.
The rain proclaims these trees,
the trees tell of the sun.
Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.
Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be
between us. Let joy.
Let entering. Let rage and calm join.
Let quail come.
Let winter impress you. Let spring.
Allow the lost ocean to wake in you.
Let the mare in the field
in the summer morning mist
make you whinny. Make you come
to the fence and whinny. Let birds.

"Let Birds" by Linda Gregg from All of It Singing (Graywolf Press). Copyright © 2008 by Linda Gregg. Reprinted with the permission of the author.



James Longenbach on Linda Gregg

Linda Gregg is a visionary poet. The fact that this is not immediately apparent constitutes the power of these extraordinary poems, poems that have been accumulating with a quiet, slow-burning majesty for nearly four decades. What strikes us first is the simplicity of means, the doggedly monosyllabic diction and the baldly declarative syntax. The means say: you may trust me, or, I will not lie to you. Then we feel the vivid inhabitation of lived experience, a human being speaking to other human beings about landscapes that, however exotic, we recognize immediately. The rocks, trees, and mountains are as familiar as love, longing, and grief. These fundamentals are Gregg's subjects, but we do not emerge from the experience of her poems possessed by usable wisdom; on the con- trary, we emerge disoriented, dazzled, our vision of the familiar world fractured into brilliant shards. "Something had happened," says Gregg in "Oedipus Exceeding": "Everything / was sacred. Air, goat, plants, people. / All full of worship." This is how we feel after reading a poem by Linda Gregg. Something—an exceeding—has happened. We want to feel it happen again.

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