The Bearer

By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
Like all his people he felt at home in the forest.   
The silence beneath great trees, the dimness there,   
The distant high rustling of foliage, the clumps
Of fern like little green fountains, patches of sunlight,   
Patches of moss and lichen, the occasional   
Undergrowth of hazel and holly, was he aware   
Of all this? On the contrary his unawareness   
Was a kind of gratification, a sense of comfort   
And repose even in the strain of running day   
After day. He had been aware of the prairies.   
He had known he hated the sky so vast, the wind   
Roaring in the grasses, and the brightness that   
Hurt his eyes. Now he hated nothing; nor could he   
Feel anything but the urgency that compelled him   
Onward continually. "May I not forget, may I   
Not forget," he said to himself over and over.   
When he saw three ravens rise on their awkward   
Wings from the forest floor perhaps seventy-five   
Ells ahead of him, he said, "Three ravens,"   
And immediately forgot them. "May I not forget,"   
He said, and repeated again in his mind the exact   
Words he had memorized, the message that was   
Important and depressing, which made him feel   
Worry and happiness at the same time, a peculiar   
Elation. At last he came to his people far   
In the darkness. He smiled and spoke his words,   
And he looked intently into their eyes gleaming
In firelight. He cried when they cried. No rest
For his lungs. He flinched and lay down while they   
Began to kill him with clubs and heavy stones.

Hayden Carruth, “The Bearer” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Poetry (October/November 1987).


This poem originally appeared in the October/November 1987 issue of Poetry magazine

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October/November 1987
 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Trees & Flowers, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Imagery, Blank Verse

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