Three Poems by Michael Garrigan

Until We Can Till Again

Pennsylvania lost 4.2 million chickens as bird flu outbreak wanes but threat of virus lingers  -AP News, June 16, 2022

It was the normal five dead at dawn, 

the next day 20, then 100, then 1000, then 

no eggs just limp clumps of white feathers

so we gassed the rest to stop the spread

from early migrating geese since March 

was warmer than usual which made 

the entire tunnel fog up like my 

windshield on humid mornings. 

We started wearing Hazmat suits to spray 

down the long concrete corridors, water 

echoing and funneling to the sides, a bristling

river of flu fowl as they dug the long furrows 

behind the building to bury the bodies because

they couldn't afford 300 dump trucks to haul 

all the carcasses to the only landfill that’d 

take them three hours out in Bedford. 

Instead of corn and soybean growing 

every other season for the next nine 

it’ll be mounds of chickens quarantined, 

decomposing until we can till again.  


Driving Home in the Dark, I Think of the Limber Honeysuckle Hanging from an Outcropping
Along a Road that Cuts through State Game Lands

and how we had never seen it before and were taken

by its magenta tubular blooms and yellow eyelashes 

cupped so perfectly in an oval green leaf and we 

just assumed it was a non-native invasive

crowding wineberry bushes and Burger King

wrappers and pieces of brake lights building

a roadside ditch kingdom of wandering detritus, 

only to look it up on my iPhone and find

that it is of here, that it thrives in thickets 

and loves disturbed dead places, those everyday 

ecotones, and the Taco Bell is closing, the one I’m passing, 

so I have to drive two hours home hungry, hovering 

in those ragged edges that most of life is — I mean, even 

now, in the dark, the moon is finning over the Juniata River

and mayflies splatter across my windshield 

and each time I pull for wiper spray my sight just smears

so I drive alternating between looking ahead through a blurry 

world and out the open window up into starshine 

in clear darkness trying to stay awake. 


Echolocation: Below the Dam

A wall, no matter how thick, always seeps a whisper. 
No matter how tall, the sky always overcomes, light
snares into cracked refraction murmuring through, 
crescendoing downstream. Something always escapes.  

I listen for sirens, following purple loosestrife
knowing it grows out of hardness, trying not to slip 
into still pools cymbal-choked with last month’s 
rain, towards the main channel where water drums. 

It is there that hearing becomes everything. 
It is there that the world becomes a thrum. 

The dam’s release is a deep one-consonant-note offering, 
but I hear the river’s first language walking the slick quartz 
bones of stream bottom stained white with Egret guano 
where water still sounds the echo of our creation. 

Michael Garrigan writes and teaches along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and believes that every watershed should have a Poet Laureate. He is the author of two poetry collections: River, Amen and Robbing the Pillars. He was the 2021 Artist in Residence for The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. His writing has appeared in Orion Magazine, River Teeth Journal, and North American Review. Find him on Twitter @m_garrigan.