Natural Wonders

man standing with arms out in rain roomPoems about Natural Wonders.

Volcano pic for MAPPING THE INTERIOR by John Barr

Mapping The Interior

U.S. professor disappears during Japan valcano hike.
–CNN World, April 30, 2009

Volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland
–CNN Report, April 26, 2010

In April, Craig Arnold entered the volcano.
"Every day poets try to lose control
(I can hear him say although I never met him)
"in a productive way. The earth we know,
the one we don't: Poetry happens
when it can get its footing properly on neither.

"It's the manic in geology that interests me.
Not the Major Oils whose business is to
find and exploit transsexual oil and gas reserves.
We poets undermine the situate.
It's when energy is nearly not contained–
brio under stress, brisance–
that the human spirit can be rampant.
These are the conditions for grace under pressure.

"Immense, the work, to leave behind the gentled parts,
a lone man loggering, and probe the crags
of the infrastructure skull. Phrenologist's art,
to plumb the fractal welter, enigmatic surfaces
crusted with meaning, and enter the informed

enormity of fastnesses, deeps.
To stay the course–temperature rising toward Absolute Jesus–
down to the anatectic charge in the embers,
burnt chemical flowers of igneous on the boil,
the matter of tomorrow's fire.
A poet's visit, I can tell you, is something strange,
like deputizing the face of chaos."

April to April he traveled through the earth
exiting the eruption at Eyjafjallajökull.
"Living or dead we add no weight to the dead weight
of a trundling planet. Our spark weighs naught as a neutrino
but is the imperiled particle of Original Resolve."

2012: a record year for solar storms.
Craig has his eye on those as well,
the hydrogen fire, bright button of awarded sun.


Eyjafjallajökull: AY-uh-fyat-luk-YOE-kuutl-uh

John Barr / from Dante in China

The Nature of Knowing image

The Nature of Knowing

Ineluctable modality of the visible.
James Joyce

Before first light, the first first light–
more night than not–
when what you know is still your own.

In minutes it will be too late,
shape and color
make the strange familiar.

An hour from now the sun will flood
the trees with certainties
demanding to be understood.

The agency of objects will insist,
and your life as intuition
for this day will be lost.

John Barr / from Dante in China 

First light

First Light

Spiders in the cold,
bees in inarticulate bunches
hang from a day's work.
Waiting for light they wait
to see what they will be.
A tree lets down
green undersides and is maple.
A window glints—
a thing of saffron
kindles with singlehood.
In the broad yard
each thing dandles
its blue, its name, its consequence.

John Barr, "First Light" from The Hundred Fathom Curve: New & Collected Poems. Copyright © 2011 by John Barr.  Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.Source: The Hundred Fathom Curve: New & Collected Poems (Red Hen Press, 2011)

Chant for a Hurricane

Birds have left without a song.
Morning light looks yellow and wrong.
Airports close, so does the town.
Winds pick up, trees blow down.
Radios go on and on.
Churches fill, church bells bong.
The people are listening, listening.

Born in a land Saharas away
Crossing an ocean to have its say
Crashing through town like a runaway train
Oh Breaker of Nations rain us your rain
Wind us your winds—of course we’ll complain.
But leave us alive with reason to sing
When you are done chastening, chastening.

John Barr / from National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry 

Hurricane devastation

Gloria Visits The Fry House

Never firm the old Victorian,
perched on locust poles, poised
on beach's brink, begins to lean.
(Oddly the rusted chandeliers
are what appear to lean as they decline
to join the general lean to sea.)
With a great complaining of nails
rooms parallelogram, right angles
by the hundreds choose acute, obtuse.

The living room goes first: two picture windows
burst as the picture they were placed to contemplate
comes in the room. The main floor caves.
The upright red piano rolls
out the window, out to sea,
slowly righting to metacenter.
In the slow motion of demolition
walls fold down upon themselves
expressing volume room by room.
Dressers come up hard on seaward walls,
the bedrooms yield beds,
the third floor launches a pool table.
Like stalks the house's piping snaps.
water lines plume, gas lines effuse.

Eased by a wave, then waves,
the pile gets underway. But rubble it is not.
Shedding cedar shakes like scales,
in the exploding surf it is reborn.

The Fry house joins the company
of things that put to sea.

John Barr / from The Hundred Fathom Curve


He comes when the light is right,
banking the pond’s perimeter
to land and step into a statue’s stillness.

When the light is right the fish come in to feed,
feeling it safe to nose among the weeds,
to risk the proximity of feet, of legs
that rise like reeds to a distant body above.

Once I saw him come in heavy rain,
knowing it would roil the fisheye view.
I watched his neck–a question mark–release,
his beak harpoon a startled shape,
and saw it go head-first down the hatch.

Perfect hunger. Perfect hunter. Perfect prey.
I wait for the heron to come.

John Barr / from The New York Times

Spider Web

The Orb Weaver

In the pre-dream of Creation–dingo
savanna, crab surf, serpent arroyo–
I was assigned thicket and air.
Whitetail taught to flee dissent,
coyote to collapse on his prey,
right whale to mouth his meadow's krill,
my trick, to make one thing repeatedly.

Out of this orifice unheard-of muscles
press a cable mile, 8 hands pay out
in junctions that I simply know.
I steeplejack an undulant array's,
a billowing acre's, rungs and radials.
From the host of brother structures in genetic gel,
my radical dance deduces one recalling
by moon the tenure of rails, by noon's blue hole
the 20/20 of a clean kill.

As language was given to man that he may have
dominion yet again, my web
like metaphor its hold makes good on air:

compass rose of indirection,
proof of an occult geometer,
dread nought, round hosanna
shout of spatial glee.

After the maker's heart
I put the merest gloze on air.
Having sutured nothing–nothing
nearly nothing still–I frame
a reference for the flying folk.

lighthousekeeperlike I tend
this hazard feet above the forest floor.
Each few days, the lattice rent
and apparent with dew, I eat it and renew
(word made flesh, made fresh) its invisibility.

My hands take hold of certain strands,
I settle to see what comes my way:

ariels and tinkerbelles,
a butterfly under double flags of truce,
manic mosquitos, a hoplite bee,
a Mack truck Luna hit the silk.

What happens next, whether to tiny tocsins
or large beats of alarum to come on the run,
whether to spring, fang, decant
is left, I believe, entirely to me.

I see a watchworks, socketed and sprung,
and I say "jeweled movement, motionless."
Immune to vertigo, I say "excused from gravity."
I see my causeways littered with body bags
and I say "Form is hunger, hunger form."

John Barr/The Hundred Fathom Curve: New and Collected Poems

Deer Xing

Sitting on sixty, we moved through Illinois.
In fast slow motion, farm by farm,
Wisconsin, like a realm whose deer
dream cars and leap, came near.

They panic, the wardens say.
but this one was intent,
crossing a lane to charge. The impact
of a deer in the air was a near wreck.
With a buckled front, but otherwise no harm,
we stopped and backed.

Sprawled in the ditch, wide-eyed,
the doe looked surprised that it had died
instead of us. As if that was the accident.

John Barr / from Hundred Fathom Curve