Seeding an Alphabet

By Emily Warn Emily Warn
To invent the alef-beit,
decipher the grammar of crows,
read a tangle of bare branches
with vowels of the last leaves
scrawling their jittery speech
on the sky’s pale page.
Choose a beginning.
See what God yields and dirt cedes
when tines disturb fescue, vetch, and sage,
when your hand dips grain from a sack,
scattering it among engraved furrows.
Beyond the hill, a plume of dust
where oxen track the hours.
Does God lead or follow or scout?
To answer, count to one again and again:
a red maple leaf and a yellow maple leaf
that wind rifles and rain shines until they let go,
blazing their scripted nothingness on air.

Emily Warn, “Seeding an Alphabet” from Shadow Architect. Copyright © 2008 by Emily Warn. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Source: Shadow Architect (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)

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Poet Emily Warn

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Trees & Flowers, Religion, God & the Divine, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Emily  Warn


Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book of Esther (1986) and Highway Suite (1987) and is the founding editor of, Warn’s poems and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers, Religion, God & the Divine, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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