The Precincts of Moonlight

By David Wojahn b. 1953 David Wojahn
Her first child belongs to the crows
and his days go circling the yellow-black fields

summers and into the falls. He scans   
the horizon, mouth in a sticky O,

like a spirit caged to infinite space.
Winged One, she calls, Winged One, come here. Receding,

he pulls off his straw hat and waves, showing his tuft   
of obsidian hair. He’s not coming back just yet.

She remembers how crows are small black rivers   
like stairways leading to rooms

that can’t be rooms, only the hallways of space.   
And then, how she watched him last night

in the ruined farmhouse across the road   
where only a chimney and staircase are left

jutting up to the vacant precincts of moonlight.   
He was stepping so lightly then,

who at sixteen forgets his own name, and shits himself   
like the mindless, fear-mad prey of barn owls.

He belonged to the crows and stood
for hours on the stairway’s precipice, weaving

a dance like crows in flight, until his brother,   
with rope and fists, carried him struggling down.

David Wojahn, “The Precincts of Moonlight” from Icehouse Lights. Copyright © 1982 by Yale University. Reprinted with the permission of Yale University Press.

Source: Icehouse Lights (Yale University Press, 1982)

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Poet David Wojahn b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Living, Parenthood


Ever since his first collection, Icehouse Lights, was chosen for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award in 1981, David Wojahn has been one of American poetry’s most thoughtful examiners of culture and memory. His work often investigates how history plays out in the lives of individuals, and poet Tom Sleigh says that his poems “meld the political and personal in a way that is unparalleled by any living American poet.”

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SUBJECT Living, Parenthood

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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