Poetry  March 2011 | issue 423

Selected Poems

by Steve Kowit

Steve Kowit was the author of In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop and seven poetry collections. A critically acclaimed poet, he died in April 2015 at the age of seventy-six.


A Prayer

If it weren’t for Mary, who knows all too well my oblivious nature,
I’d never have noticed those tiny, crepuscular creatures
floating around in the dogs’ water bowls. The big yellow
jackets are easy enough to spot & easy to save — you just
cup your hand under their bellies, tossing them free with a splash,
& they’ll stumble back to their feet like indignant drunks, shake
out their wings, & fly off. But I’d never noticed those minuscule
midges & gnats till Mary pointed them out. At a casual glance
they are nothing but dust motes & flecks of debris.
By the time I bend over to look, a few have already been
pulled under & are hopelessly gone. But the ones still floating,
the ones still barely alive but alive nonetheless, you can lift out
on the tip of your finger, then gingerly coax onto dry cardboard
or fencing or whatever is lying around — though for godsakes
be careful! A single slip can prove fatal. But if you’re patient
& steady enough, you’ll see wings delicate as the lash of a small
child’s eye at last start to flutter. What has been saved,
though easy enough to disparage, is somebody’s precious,
irreplaceable life. Given this planet’s unending grief, let us
save whom we can. Eons after the last hominid skull has
crumbled back into the loam, may swarms of these all
but invisible creatures’ descendants coast still, at dusk,
over these hills. May they find water & food in abundance.
May every breeze upon which they sail prove benign.