In the Changing Light

By Carter Revard b. 1931 Carter Revard
Brimming the trees with song
they flood July, spill over into
August pulsing lovecries,
cicadas here—one that
our cat brought me lay, legs folded
neatly, on clear wings as on a shroud, green
and white, fizzing now and then,
but when I threw it spread
wings and zagged in a wide curve into
the sweetgum tree where presently
its dry buzzsaw whined for some
significant other to auger down
into dark dense earth and gnaw at
the roots of things,
sans eyes, sans wings, sans
song for seventeen years or so.

As daylight sharpens, deer slip back
into the woods. I wonder what a deer,
when danger grows too bright,
makes of a world whose darker,
truer memories in ear
and nose must solve the dazzle of
our alien eyes, more surgical
at stripping off its cover, at masking selves
as downwind leaves.
I’ve read somewhere the claim, by computer people,
that pain cannot be felt
until self-consciousness
has been achieved, and they had programmed in
that level, so they said, of artificial pain.
In A. R. Luria’s book The Mind
of a Mnemonist, the man infallibly
remembered everything, but all perceptions
were unlike ours. Hearing, he tasted: sweet, bitter,
salty; heard neon colors; rough or silky, icy or
bloodwarm words: laid them like eggs aside on streets
his memory walked stolidly along,
walked back to get them when he needed to.
—Forgot, once, a word;
had set it carefully beneath a lamp
whose bulb was burnt out.
Bud opens and
is marigold, bird touched
by sunlight sings,
mind thinks:
I am. Still,
as the old man put it, coming out
into the light we wawl
and cry. I wonder,
in this darklit galaxy,
how that song is heard.

Carter Revard, “In the Changing Light” from How the Songs Come Down. Copyright © 2005 by Carter Revard. Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: How the Songs Come Down (Salt Publishing, 2005)

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

Poet Carter Revard b. 1931

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Summer, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Carter  Revard

Biography

Carter Revard grew up on the Osage Reservation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. He is of Osage, Ponca, Irish, and Scotch-Irish heritage; in 1952 his grandmother gave him the Osage name Nompehwahteh (meaning “fear-inspiring”). Despite a difficult early life—he attended a one-room schoolhouse and worked odd jobs throughout his childhood—Revard eventually won a scholarship to the University of Tulsa through a radio quiz. He was one of the . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Time & Brevity, Nature, Summer, Landscapes & Pastorals, Trees & Flowers, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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.