By PETER COOLEY
So much for the wound in me
seeking a piebald answer
in the tulip’s streak cataracted by first frost,
the blue jay flapping across the grass,
one-winged, his flying
this crawl through blades he hues,
tenor and vehicle this bird and me,
both of us trying to accept
such ritual exchange.
So much of suffering is history’s
I said to Lucifer, my friend,
the caterpillar on my right forearm
I’ve adopted, daring him
to bite me, though he refuses,
inching along, humping the infinite.
From a morning goldening
each tree, what l shall I ask,
a nip to assure me I’m still here?
Yes, exquisitely sensitive
to suffering the wound, the world,
having found my place,
in which I inch along,
caterpillar steps in league
with the skies I find
scattering beneath my feet.
Peter Cooley’s eleventh book of poetry, The One Certain Thing, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2021. Professor emeritus of English at Tulane University, where he was director of creative writing from 1975 to 2018, he was the 2015–2017 Louisiana Poet Laureate. He lives in New Orleans.