squirrelfor Mary Oliver

Everyone has their teachers,

I think to myself this morning

as I notice you have dedicated

your small great book of poems to James Wright.


We are all in each other’s debt,

all filled with this inconstant music—

inherited vocables, lost syllables—

speaking themselves again in our mouths.


The squirrel is gnawing at the inside

of the kitchen walls. All day I hear her slow,

determined ratcheting. She will find her way

through to something.


And I have your words in my head,

these words that echo

with his words; one day

you may even have mine.


I turn back to your poem.

Watching is what you do so well. Watching

until it opens you

and the words come pouring.


And you are slow and timely

and do not hurry over the least thing

until the earth glitters and every leaf

is upturned toward the light.


Look how abundantly

the earth scatters her rich gifts—

pine needles litter the red ground—

such surplus, such redundance,


as if she were singing, plenty, plenty, plenty,

while we shadow and cringe,

thinking never enough,

foolish in our small, square lives.


Now here I am to try my hand

wherever my own secret lies,

in some hoard, like the acorns

piled swiftly behind these


yellow walls—

my stash, my sweet supply.


—Maxima Kahn

first published in Spillway, A Poetry Magazine