Ex Libris

By Eleanor Wilner b. 1937 Eleanor Wilner
By the stream, where the ground is soft
and gives, under the slightest pressure—even   
the fly would leave its footprint here   
and the paw of the shrew the crescent   
of its claws like the strokes of a chisel   
in clay; where the lightest chill, lighter   
than the least rumor of winter, sets the reeds   
to a kind of speaking, and a single drop of rain   
leaves a crater to catch the first silver   
glint of sun when the clouds slide away   
from each other like two tired lovers,   
and the light returns, pale, though brightened   
by the last chapter of late autumn:   
copper, rusted oak, gold aspen, and the red
pages of maple, the wind leafing through to the end   
the annals of beech, the slim volumes   
of birch, the elegant script of the ferns ...

for the birds, it is all
notations for a coda, for the otter   
an invitation to the river,
and for the deer—a dream
in which to disappear, light-footed   
on the still open book of earth,   
adding the marks of their passage,   
adding it all in, waiting only
for the first thick flurry of snowflakes   
for cover, soft cover that carries   
no title, no name.

Eleanor Wilner, “Ex Libris” from Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1997 by Eleanor Wilner. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Eleanor Wilner b. 1937

Subjects Fall, Religion, Nature, Animals

 Eleanor  Wilner


Eleanor Wilner was born in 1937 in Ohio. She earned a BA from Goucher College and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where she completed her dissertation on the imagination, a work later published as Gathering the Winds: Visionary Imagination and Radical Transformation of Self and Society (1975).  Active in civil rights and peace movements, Wilner is known for writing poetry that engages politics, culture, history, and myth. . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Fall, Religion, Nature, Animals

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.