Passing Through the Shadow of the Earth
Jonathan Skinner



ebb tide dropping the river

frog leaps from the mud

greased stone I step on


kingfisher         starlings         red-winged blackbirds


          heron              beginning


of attention


paddle digs in along kayak

flanks sending upriver


low blinding light puts

you swiftly in shadows

cresting through the chop

wind against current


kingfisher clicks

ahead, on a branch, restless

darts     around the bend

figure eights

wings fanned a moment

          making a bow


wind in the trees

these still woods, growing moss

exhale at the tide going out


eyes green blue obsidian look out

up or down searching

for knowledge in our bodies

which know nothing


but what they know

they know well, are satisfied

with so much less


what the turtle knows

estivating in mud

the snake propelling its slight

snout along the surface


the butterfly tumbling in a gust

the hawk lofting and aiming

its deadly sternum


all things turn, flash, catch

in the mind a moment


we pass through shadows

we do not know lie on us

degrees of penumbral



the earth and moist part

of plants blown over us

by the hot, drying wind


people say the planet is dying

it is we who are dying

hungry for life we put the earth

inside of us


we want it to pass through

the gate of dispossession


this not owning what we are

being surprised the way

touch answers touch


on its own terms

the way a cloud expands

contracts, turns

blackbirds synchronized

opening their ranks


not fixated, meandering

always a movement away from

and a return

                    to places, persons

          we come to love with particulars


not of the past

but ongoing   

          lifted from yet immersed in

              a change that does not change


knowledge of what does not die

until we do


the heron steers slowly

out of long river grasses

legs trailing, squawks



doves cooing

under bridge rafters

as I haul myself out, remove

sandals           step into the thick


clay of the bank

pull the kayak up

over mud and grass


where the road crosses

at a bend in the river




Jonathan Skinner founded the journal ecopoetics. His books include Chip Calls (Little Red Leaves, 2014), Birds of Tifft (BlazeVOX, 2011), Warblers (Albion, 2010) and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005). He teaches in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.