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Four Poems


On either side drops a waste of plain scrub
And drought-driven earth. At the last rise
To stop just before the descent, pulling over, 

Silence. Between the click of metal going cold
And animals moving to higher ground, between
What I left and what you did not do: a stray

Backbone of light. The valley below accommodates
A truck gear by gear on its way, an old mercy
Of sun stains the distance. To lose the route,

Out in such open without switchback
Or station, so far up no tree to blaze, where already
None stay but scurry off any ridge, no longer

Unfolding against your length, must I give you this too—
To find I am not even close.



I am the one the meadow did not keep.
Neither early nor late, nor bitter      
Storm nor season, and already vanishing;

For three days at her side I stayed,
I fit my heart to hers; amid those
Who grow to market, I was not to be

Long. Buried as deep as what the next day
May bring, made certain with a pile
Of any nearby stone. My one mother, ready to let go

The smallest, and the smallest goes. Perhaps I was a reckoning
For luck. First I could not stay away
And then I was finished; I looked back only once,                 

Tail pointed nowhere, morning fog
Not yet lifted as I turn, already gone.


GEOMETRY OF THE SELFISH HERD                        

To reduce the one being gone for, go
Unremarkable. To be mistaken
For another might be to survive:

Fold in, swerve, better close by,
Better dense with others to turn the needed
Margin in fields outspread

With enterprise. All domains end
In a state of danger and whoever falls   
Becomes obstacle; options
Overstated, exits obscured, and the gap
Repairs and in that convergence
We do not finish, ever; we figure

Ourselves as encircled circling, the rules begin
Simple as we steer, pass each other
Or not, and into vortex or arrow or even as new

We form the form as we form,
Move to the nearest
Neighbor in a brace of what might come,   

Use his or her angle without asking
Where we head; it is too much to remain
In the clear of anywhere without

Your own kind. We do not move
For freedom, we who fill in, ceaseless. Rather
To be where nowhere is left to choose.



He who watches what goes in, what goes out
Vows the system knows itself
Better than you ever could. What happens inside: 

Not about the box, known for being nothing
Knowable but presence. During which
A single event is the myriad of what we could be

Without us in the way. He claims the end
Will explain the beginning, any task or
Formula cannot be seen, any strategy

What you agree to let go. Let any cross
Be the cross you never know; your finger
Hovers the screen: is the attributable

Before or after the made. And have you been
Enough, for whatever passes through, changed.


Sophie Cabot Black has three poetry collections: “The Misunderstanding of Nature”, “The Descent”, and “The Exchange”. A fourth book, “Geometry of the Restless Herd” is forthcoming in May of 2024 (Copper Canyon).  Her poetry has appeared in numerous magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review.