Scarecrow on Fire
by Dean Young
We all think about suddenly disappearing.
The train tracks lead there, into the woods.
Even in the financial district: wooden doors
in alleyways. First I want to put something small
into your hand, a button or river stone or
key I don't know to what. I don't
have that house anymore across from the graveyard
and its black angel. What counts as a proper
goodbye? My last winter in Iowa there was always
a ladybug or two in the kitchen for cheer
even when it was ten below. We all feel
suspended over a drop into nothingness.
Once you get close enough, you see what
one is stitching is a human heart. Another
is vomiting wings. Hell, even now I love life.
Whenever you put your feet on the floor
in the morning, whatever the nightmare,
it's a miracle or fantastic illusion:
the solidity of the boards, the steadiness
coming into the legs. Where did we get
the idea when we were kids to rub dirt
into the wound or was that just in Pennsylvania?
Maybe poems are made of breath, the way water,
cajoled to boil, says, This is my soul, freed.
About the Poet:
Dean Young was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, in 1955. He has taught widely in American colleges and universities and is currently the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas, in Austin. Young served as Bucknell's 2013-2014 Poet-in-Residence.
About this Poem:
Young's "Scarecrow on Fire" appropriately invokes images rooted in the Pennsylvania landscape and closes with the powerful claim that poetry "is my soul, freed."
"Scarecrow on Fire," from Fall Higher © 2011 by Dean Young, used by permission of the author and Copper Canyon Press.