Moving Among the Creatures

Apr 3, 2020

  

Today’s poem is “Moving Among the Creatures” by Daniel Hoffman, who was the author of over twenty books, including poetry, criticism, and a memoir. He spent many summers in Brooksville, Maine and was appointed US poet laureate in 1973. 

He wrote about his experience in Maine in the anthology Maine Lines: 101 Poems Contemporary Poems About Maine: “…The rigor of the climate, the rectitude of the people I know there, the glittering purity of the Maine air, the slow inexorable persistence of the primordial rhythms of nature, the true scale of things where human life is subject to the seasons and the tides—all these associations of a lifetime’s summers crowd my thought.  Their images of power and beauty outside the possibilities of human making suggest a harmony by which our imperfections may be measured and perhaps redeemed.  ‘Maine’ is thus a code-word in my imagination for a set of all pastoral virtues, a life attuned in its integrity to the self-renewing energies of nature which reveal the spiritual forces that have made them.”

Moving Among the Creatures
by Daniel Hoffman

Moving among the creatures
As the new light
Surges down this cliff, these trees, this meadow,
Brightening the shade among the alders
And shriveling the dew on leaves,
They are contented in their bodies- I can tell it-
The squalling gull delighted to be turning
Widdershins, their shadows swooping
Over rocks where startled deer
Clatter, flashing spindly shanks
And delicate hooves while underfoot
Even the uglies in their sticky skins
Exult, the woodfrogs clunking all the bells
In sunken steeples, till at my
Thick tread
They leap and scissor-kick away
While the withering leech,
Shrinking, enlarging, waving
Knobbed horns
Makes the stem shine
With silver spittle where he’s gone.
I trip on vines, stumble in potholes
And long for something of myself that’s in them,
In the gulls’ windy coursing, in the frogs’
Brief cadenza, even in the slug’s
Gift to leave
A gleaming track, spun
From his own
Slippery gut.

Poem copyright ©1968 Daniel Hoffman. Reprinted from Hang-Gliding from Helicon: New and Selected Poems, LSU Press, 1988, by permission of the publisher.