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As the extinguished.
As creatures, coming out to play
in the twilight of creation
human faces intelligent and suffering,
turned upward entering the trees.
The charismatic megafauna:
polar bears, moose, rippling massive flanks
to shake loose biting flies.
The fox and the vixen. The leopard
dazzling in his camouflage, breaking
the urgent glass. In the underlayer
of  humus and moss and broken clay
the cryptogams, the earthworms turning
between the wizardly fingers
of the forest, managed growth
of the second order, the third, steered
toward what shoal, a history
for the benefit of imaginary extrinsic persons.
In the branches snowy owls
and ravens, or the rock pigeons we call
pigeons, that can’t perch in trees, that swarm cities
like the flying rats they are, hungry,
iridescent at the neck like the
rats themselves shining like a collar
at the base of a public sculpture
monument to the fundamental flight
through corridors of power, mathematics,
heat death rippling like an invisible wave
down State Street, paralleling Michigan,
pushed by the restless concinnations
of  the El, cutting longitudes across the lake itself,
desert of water
meeting the migrations of alien carp and
cosmic rays, diving deep for the wreck
of the Edmund Fitzgerald
or swimming invisible lines, boundaries
policed by radar, from Canada
a mass of air launched by minute variations
in temperature, push and pull over heat
islands, carbon dioxide absorption,
ozone exhaustion invisible and intervening
like a god: that which manifests
through its action on substance, not itself
substance: weak forces, atmospheres,
unnamed unmet animal species
gone extinct, whole genuses, phyla,
unknowable kingdoms and principalities,
coral reefs burned black like
the crouched and burdened angels,
muscular sketches of our vacancy
as in an etching by Blake, horizontal,
the spiritual body
dividing like a hyphen the upper from the lower,
phatic messenger of  betweenness,
inhuman round eyes fixed on nothing, on suffering,
folly, sporting events, on Gaza — 
wings outstretched to bandage the eyes of  Heaven,
our eyes
as they would bandage the wound of a headless child
or conceal the strength of a people
from their weakness, the mortals
masquerading as their own fates, individuals
slashed open by solitude, acts of mourning
and revenge, writing themselves
into the text of righteousness. The messengers
reveal nothing, like the animals
marching slowly toward me now, two by two,
tongues lolling, eyes lit from within hollow and sparkling
as a cave concealed from light for thirty thousand years
but concealed no longer. Grace have I none
but what can be inferred
by arms opening, palms, head tilting back
to catch rain in my jaws:
what is born, now, what wrests its way
out of the eternal feminine, the body
my only warrant, against monuments my pledge
to the immaculate moment. What is born
is not of me, or the we, or of god, or animals.
It is a wing. It is bleeding.
It masks my eyes until the thunder comes
to open the openness over all.

Source: Poetry (May 2014)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

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  • Born in New York and raised in northern New Jersey, poet Joshua Corey earned a BA at Vassar College, an MA and MFA at the University of Montana, and a PhD at Cornell University. Influenced by Charles Olson, Wallace Stevens, and Robert Duncan, Corey pushes formal structure toward fracture, engaging themes of failure, desire, and the pastoral. In a review of Severance Songs for Poetry Northwest, poet Zach Savich observed that Corey’s poems “are sonnet-like less for their containers than for the bright shapes they contain. The sense of a sonnet, these poems suggest, isn’t in formal configuration but in a manner of speaking, of talking to oneself, of talking things through. In Severance Songs, this manner reels through landscape to render the ‘pool of newsworthy airs’ that ‘surrounds my perception.’” In a 2012 interview with Stephen Ross for Wave Composition, Corey stated, “More and more, what interests me about...

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