Early Frost

By Scott Cairns b. 1954 Scott Cairns
This morning the world’s white face reminds us   
that life intends to become serious again.
And the same loud birds that all summer long   
annoyed us with their high attitudes and chatter   
silently line the gibbet of the fence a little stunned,   
chastened enough.

They look as if they’re waiting for things
to grow worse, but are watching the house,   
as if somewhere in their dim memories
they recall something about this abandoned garden   
that could save them.

The neighbor’s dog has also learned to wake   
without exaggeration. And the neighbor himself   
has made it to his car with less noise, starting
the small engine with a kind of reverence. At the window   
his wife witnesses this bleak tableau, blinking   
her eyes, silent.

I fill the feeders to the top and cart them   
to the tree, hurrying back inside
to leave the morning to these ridiculous   
birds, who, reminded, find the rough shelters,   
bow, and then feed.

Scott Cairns, “Early Frost” from The Translation of Babel (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1990). Copyright © 1990 by Scott Cairns. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Translation of Babel (University of Georgia Press, 1990)

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Poet Scott Cairns b. 1954

Subjects Pets, Nature, Home Life, Relationships, Trees & Flowers, Weather, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Scott  Cairns


Scott Cairns was born in Tacoma, Washington. He earned a BA from Western Washington University, an MA from Hollins College, an MFA from Bowling Green State University, and a PhD from the University of Utah.
Cairns is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Theology of Doubt (1985), The Translation of Babel (1990), Philokalia (2002), Idiot Psalms (2014), and Slow Pilgrim: The Collected Poems (2015). His writing has . . .

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SUBJECT Pets, Nature, Home Life, Relationships, Trees & Flowers, Weather, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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