Poem of the Week | June 05, 2017

This week, we are proud to present a new poem by Meg Kearney. Kearney is author of two books of poems for adults, An Unkindness of Ravens and Home By Now, winner of the 2010 PEN New England LL Winship Award; as well as three novels in verse for teens: The Secret of MeThe Girl in the Mirror, and When You Never Said Goodbye. Her award-winning picture book, Trouper the Three-Legged Dog (Scholastic 2013), is illustrated by E.B. Lewis and won the State of Missouri’s Show Me Reader’s Award. Her poetry has been featured on Poetry Daily, Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” series, and Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac.” A native New Yorker, Kearney lives in New Hampshire and is Founding Director of the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College. For more information, visit www.megkearney.com.

Author’s note:

“Loon” is part of a manuscript-in-progress comprised of poems inspired by the book 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells. Using Wells’ description as a launch point, “Loon” sent me diving back into some memories that took me by surprise—some from my 20s, some obviously much earlier than that. Not all of these “bird poems” are autobiographical, but “Loon” is certainly emotionally true.




I bought a cassette tape of loon calls so I could speak
their language that summer I camped on Russet Pond.
This was the eighties so cassette tapes were the thing


side A was for where-are-you-I-am-here or I-am-hungry
calls, meaning hoots, wails, and peeps; side B was for
aggression and distress—yodels and tremolos, the latter


a kind of alarm laugh that led to the saying “crazy
as a loon.” Kids today don’t have the chance to choose
between side A and B—B, the poor man’s intermission


or a sleeper song’s second chance—but now I’m talking
45 records, 1972, with “Deeper and Deeper” on the B side
of “Billy Don’t Be a Hero,” which was more a tremolo


than a yodel, a sentimental, romantic, anti-war song
that slew my heart in third grade. No one I knew liked
“Deeper and Deeper,” though on Russet Pond I learned


that loons, with their solid bones, can dive deeper and longer
than most birds; and I found I preferred wails to tremolos,
wails being the kind of call I’d perfected myself by then.