Don Yorty


Fluttering robins louder than my singing
are violent on the lawn where they’re fighting
over a worm—No!—I’m wrong. As quiet
as a junkie gets sticking the needle
in no matter what funny business
preceded it—Like a junkie suddenly
silent one bird enters the other shooting
the life force so still it makes me stop
playing to watch what I thought was a war
being fought not this sudden making love
done in dandelions and fog. The robins
hop and pull together to come apart.
As I put the guitar down, not a thought.
No sound at all but for the rain that falls.


My mother pulled the black snake from the bush.
Long snake gone from fleeing to being held
twined around her arm and opened its mouth
but mother only laughed and let it twist.
Her friends who had come to party at her
barbecue wanted whiskey sours, not this
and yelled “Theresa!” parting like the waves
did for Moses when his raised scepter hissed.
My mother held on through the yard toward
the house, the cellar steps, down to the dark
cellar itself. “Go, find the mice. They’re yours,”
she said letting it go to the shadows
going back to her friends and the roasting corn.
That was my mother from the day she was born.


Life is like jumping across the rocks.
I got myself here and now I must get
myself out. Huge as a dinosaur head
and as old if not older is this rock
I’m writing on as naked as a lizard
sunning itself. The insects on my skin
have come to me or I guess I to them
though they will stay and I will go. Home’s far.
I have to steady myself, be ready
not to fall, keep my balance, not tumble
into the thorns below where I’d struggle
to climb back up, knuckles numb and bloody.
Life is really like a poem and how.
If you want to get there, be here now.


Back at the beginning is like a dream
Back at the beginning’s like waking up
Back at the beginning not everything
is formed. The pond is not a pond, it’s a
big hole some giant with a shovel has dug
up. I know this place and yet I don’t, yet
I know I’m home—Here is where I was born.
How do I know? Here I feel safe and sound.
Here I have flown to write and become old.
The sun’s going down. Night will sing its notes.
I am what I am no matter what. I am
not able to look. Can you see my face?
Am I a bird or a man or a snake?
The stars are hid that led me to this place.


In many ways the tree looks like the cloud.
In many ways the hawk looks like the crow
sharing the same profile and the same form.
As the trees bend and sway out of their boughs
a long polar bear comes. Athena was
Zeus growing in size, breaking free from
his mind. I see a hawk—or’s that a crow?—
on high looking down for a young swallow
to swallow. From above like an arrow
swallows point and make for the predator
who’s too big to turn around and swallow
the swallows who follow with more swallows
nipping its back until it flies away.
Then in the clouds the swallows stay and play.

Don Yorty is the author of three poetry collections, A Few Swimmers Appear, Poet Laundromat, and Spring Sonnets, and a novel What Night Forgets. He blogs at an archive of current art, his own writing, and the work of other poets. Poems written in his twenties, Fucking and Other Poems, will be published by Indolent Books in September 2025.