WestWords Perfect Pair 01.12.14

Widely regarded as one of the major mid-century American poets, James Dickey, born in Atlanta in 1923, was known for his historical vision and eccentric poetic style. Two of his most famous volumes of verse were, Helmets and Buckdancer’s Choice —for which he was awarded both the Melville Cane Award and The National Book Award, both were published in the 1960’s. In 1970, he penned his best-selling novel, Deliverance, a book which was later made into a major motion picture. James Dickey died in 1997. On the theme of the destructive yet staggering beauty of nature, this is:

THE HEAVEN OF ANIMALS
By James Dickey

Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.
For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.

These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,
More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain
At the cycle’s centre,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.

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