New Poetry

A Measure of Desolation: February 2005

Again and again    the landwind blows,

sending back the rain

to the house of the rain.

Seeking, seeking,    the heron goes

longlegged from creek

to thirsty creek.

They cry and cry,    the windblown crows

across the sky,

the bare clear sky.

From land to land    the dry wind blows

the thin dry sand

from the house of sand.


In the Third Year of the War

I used to stand in this corner window

to wave to my children setting off

down the hill to school with their lunch boxes,

and they’d turn and wave to me.

At Christmas the tree goes in this window,

and all year I keep flowers in it,

close to the glass, so we inside

and people passing by can see them.

Last year I put a Peace sign in the window

with an electric candle behind it

that comes on at twilight. Last month I started

sticking a piece of paper with the number,

the day’s count of the dead, in the window.

Now almost every day I have to change it,

to add one, or four, or seven

to the number of the brave children.


From the Tent on the Volcano: July 2005

(This poem was written at Ryan Lake Camp on Mount St Helens, where I was staying with a wonderful “foray” organised by the Spring Creek Project of Oregon State University. I had been on the mountain the year after the 1980 eruption and spent a long, hard day in the immense devastation, which seemed irreparable. It was amazing to come back 25 years later to the same places and find them utterly changed, the mountain remaking herself in her own way and time, not only with the upwelling magma in her crater, but in all the great and small lives on her slopes.)

The mist lifts off the little lake down there,

Way down, across a gulf of shining air.

The upward spiral song of Swainson’s thrush,

The white-crown’s teedle-eedle in the hush:

There is such singing in the morning, where

Was only silence, and grey dust, and ash.

“We are her children, we are in her care,

Our kind destroyer,” sings the mountain thrush.


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Copyright © 2005 by Ursula K. Le Guin
Updated Tuesday, 18-Jun-2019 10:14:42 EDT