The Outdoor Poet: Katherine Hastings


Jack London State Park

This is where it is done. Beneath the canopy
of trees above and the many songbirds
we've not had time to learn the names of
by their chips and trills, here where bees effervesce
in gold light, water still spilling on the rocks,
and inside the softly carpeted fairy ring

where braided shadows of redwoods drape
nests of mice, voles. Breath comes more softly
standing at the picket fence of graves —
London under the red rock, fresh ashes
poured in a mound nearby. (We wondered if
that's desecration or a human right.) It comes

deeper in the garden of rosemary, lavender,
and quicker at the cottage when we realize
the woodpeckers will win in the end with
no one to mend the walls. Dear Jack: I like
peeking in the windows to see your desk,
your books, your sleeping porch and Charmian's

where you were brought to die, but mostly
I like to walk the land left to us. Is there
anything you can do from where you are? Be
a hero. Send a ship or a good dog. Think
Wolf House. Happy House. This restful,
delicious house of air. We breathe here
better than almost anywhere, distressed.

—from Cloud Fire

A Walk in the Park

All day the yellow sun falls on the hills.
Bunchgrass and blackberries pour down the slope.
Last night coyotes trotted past scattered oaks
climbing to sky, sang of the catch. Rabbit,

rabbit, possum, fawn. The world smells
of new blood born and spilled. Frogs pronounce
from the pond, each day fainter. Wind poppies
bend softly on the plain of mouths — spiders, bats,

rough skinned newts. A boy made in the image of
Lorca reclines beneath a laurel; turkey vultures
wheel over with wings of shredded violins.
The eyes of the world are always hungry, sponges

of fruit and fascia. Down the path through white
bones of backwoods, past Skullcap and Solomon's
Seal, I look behind, sense the half-lidded stare
of a mountain lion drowsing in dust.

Beside her, a woman sunbathes on a rug,
writes of uncomplicated peace. I heed
wildcat advice, spread my arms wide, an
expanding constellation in this small

heaven of shrinking earth, a postage stamp
of impermanent creation in a world
doomed to ruin. Last night a poet read
of mountaintop removal in West Virginia,
how his family's graveyard can be seen
legally now only from a plane, how
the coal company murdered his dog,
Are we all the same species? Here a man

plants a banyan for life, a rose for love.
There a man plans to murder you in your sleep.
I walk until the lopsided moon begins her weaving
over and under, under and over,

interlacing her lightfall of peace.
I walk until the nighthawks cry.

—from Nighthawks

White Horse

Through the woods of Annadel
past trees gently arched,
trunks and stones moss-matted —
comes the fair stallion steady on the trail

One angel on a treetop sings
one note — repeated,

Milky surface of stream,
little wall of water
falling into it,
and the white horse
coming nearer
with a steady sound
beating under the boughs
in the darkness of woods
as if by magic
moving towards
to where, upon the ribbed edge,
he passes
trails a veil of light
that shakes us
as though wind
as though ecstasy

— from Cloud Fire

About the author Katherine Hastings is the author of Cloud Fire (Spuyten Duyvil NYC, 2012) and Nighthawks (Spuyten Duyvil NYC, 2014). She edited and published the poetry anthology What Redwoods Know—Poems from California State Parks in response to the financial crisis facing our state parks; all proceeds went to the California State Parks Foundation. Hastings hosts WordTemple on NPR affiliate KRCB 91-FM and curates the WordTemple Poetry Series in Sonoma County. For more information go to

The Outdoor Poet is edited by Robert Sward, author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, New and Selected Poems: 1957-2011 (Red Hen Press). He lives on the Westside with his wife, the artist Gloria Alford, and a poodle mix named Cosette. Participation in The Outdoor Poet is by invitation.

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