Poem of the Week | July 11, 2016

This week, we are proud to present a poem by James Davis May. May’s first book of poetry, Unquiet Things, was published in 2016 by LSU Press.
Author’s note:

“Geese” was the first poem I wrote after finalizing my first book manuscript with LSU Press. I had worked on the book for almost ten years, and suddenly those poems were out of my hands. It was strange to have nothing on my table; in fact, it was downright scary. Around this time, my daughter’s language acquisition kicked into overdrive. Words became sentences, then sentences became paragraphs (often of the argumentative nature). Then she started showing a real interest in writing—scribbles at first, of course, but she soon learned to write her name. I wouldn’t say she was becoming a person, for her personality was well established, but she was beginning to articulate herself, and it was exhilarating to witness. Also around this time, the cow pasture about a mile down our road was being frequented by Canadian geese. Some of the geese, I think, wintered there, but others used it as a pit stop (there’s a stream, which often floods in winter, offering them miniature ponds in the pasture). I loved watching them fly away, how chaotic it was in the beginning, and how thrilling it was when the form—that V—announced itself. Those three ideas prompted this poem—the geese assembling themselves instinctually into form, my daughter assembling her thoughts into language, and my own struggle to end my newfound wordlessness.




Not the celebrated V
but what precedes it,
this tangle untangling
then firming itself
into a line, a card
shuffle from one hand
to the other that drops
the deck, so not order
but its impulse, the
jockeying of the not-yet-
chosen to choose the chosen,
movement without
determined purpose,
your daughter lifting
her crayon above
the paper to write words
without knowing
any letters, a scribble
until she finishes and
points and says, “There.”