Winter Journal: Fish Rises, Dark Brown Muscle Turns Over

By Emily Wilson b. 1968 Emily Wilson
rings diminish, duck reflects flight then threads off
Long branch of land, rusted oaks smoldering
       fawn shore, grasses bare scripts of green
       black fingerbones of the willows, splayed
       rubric fringe of the reeds at the edge of water
The reflection is its own blurred dream
The blended edges, furred thing
tawny path of stalks brushed into gray slope behind
Bright yellow mostly gone now, the dominance
       of dulled bronze, ochrous, ferrous grooves of
       the several oaks
The wrought planes and hinges of things
Strange, held-off symmetry, axis of waterline
       rubbed, smeared, edge-shifted
What is real then made more so through
       an intervention of element
The chipmunk’s tail jerks in synch with its mouth-pops
Stares hard at me from a dead willow stump
Who are you and what have you done?
Things moving in the leaves behind me.
Dog barks from far across fields
Single bird oars across lake
The sky deep in: dark oxygens
crimp of leaf edging in dried weed stalk
miniature seedpods held forward
calligraphic against gray water, white stones
chipmunk-rustle, upturn duff, chirp storm whirl off, hold still
       hold still
Gravity picks and fidgets

How each blade and bract is angled just so
       arches, etched kerns
       scroll of deft beech leaf
       Baroque script of dried vines
       their wall of texture coming down
Crows burr into woods
fish plinks through and slacks under
ducks quilt across sky, through sky-water
mottled beads hovering, unchaining
Reflection is a real thing set
       in perpetual motion, as if electron
       spinning and jittering made visible
       the static progressions
The waving laminations of white stone
the wandering rift through
the pulse-veins
Breathing thing, made to breathe, graven so

Now the delicate hammers
pure cuts of bird
steel rings reassembling
Quit path under oak
Something moves off a dark road
Deep-embroidered quiet
the tickets slip
thicket in
meter-tick of duck taking off
       keep close, brush close to surface
       furl between bird and mirror-bird
I am vested in sensation
a suspension of yellow maple amid stalks of oak
       distillate of leaves
       saffron particulate
Deep sea of trees, fanned tops of oak corals, collective bend
fast tappers high up
flapping across water
back up the damp trough
trees closing in
two deer pick across, turn back
       clatter through woods

Emily Wilson, “Winter Journal: Fish Rises, Dark Brown Muscle Turns Over” reprinted from The Keep. With permission Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001.

Source: The Keep (University of Iowa Press, 2001)

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

Poet Emily Wilson b. 1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Winter, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals


Emily Wilson was born in Ohio and grew up in Maine; she was educated at Harvard University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her collections of poetry include The Keep (2001); Morpho terrestre (2006), a limited-edition book with prints by Sara Langworthy; and Micrographia (2009). Poet James Galvin noted in the Boston Review that Wilson’s poetry matches “wildness of diction with precision of sense.”
Wilson has . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Winter, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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.