Features, Poems

Margaret Ross: “Godwits Migrating”


The other day, I got a phone call from M. He told me what he was doing: “I just did a sketch of the hospital sailing.”

“Sailing?”

“The sailing, yea.”

I remembered a waiting room with a pastel marina nailed to its windowless wall.

“Like boats?”

“C-E-I-L-I-N-G. Sailing.”

Sarah Kane’s play “Blasted” is set start to end in a hotel room. Halfway through, there’s knocking on the door. Instead of opening the door, the person inside knocks back. Two knocks. Then two knocks from outside. Then three from inside. Then three from outside. When the door finally opens, there’s a war going on. The room changes shape: a wall crumbles, a body’s buried in the floor.

I wrote this poem after hearing “windows” are cut into cows to study their live-action insides. Between studies, the cuts get plugged with rubber stoppers and the cows, now “window cows,” go about business as usual. The image of a herd of them grazing seems as sad as it does portentous, like all contemporary redesigns of what was once called the natural world. Something knocks from the interior, but it’s hard to tell where the interior is, whether whatever boundaries we saw between ourselves and that world weren’t just misconstrued contours of our lives and actions. What’s natural? What are you doing? The old assurances about this space—the walls that were the glaciers, the seasons, the species—change shape. There’s a war outside. The view blows the ceiling away.
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Godwits Migrating

and to what end the end that is
+++++the honor code where Dr. Exponent
+++++he sang the oranges for sale in common
meter we must choose to be

kind when all your life rinsed wind is
+++++temperate world further opening
+++++space between the pliant needles of
a hedge sincerity that was the sensible shade

agreed on wall-to-wall so we will not have to feel
+++++the floor might we not feel there actually
+++++are animals with open circles on their sides
stopped under rubber disks like ones

to keep a bath up to her collar bones
+++++in the literature “an animal with a window”
+++++for knowledge gravity forsook
after where can I say appeared to me the

harbor shagged with bees they were before
+++++they touched the water dead the lifeguard
+++++“it’s” his feet on
kept sun powering interiors

here is consent the branch nods when the birds take off
+++++consent “a floating carpet not possible
+++++to keep from getting stung” we climbed
the ridge empirical extension

are you turned away who
+++++strung a steel wire through my mind
+++++drawn taut from ear to ear
and strumming throbs the wading flocks


Author Photo for PNWRecent poems by Margaret Ross can be found online at Boston ReviewCompanyOmniverse and jubilat, and in a chapbook, Decay Constant, from Catenary Press. Her translations of the Chinese poet Huang Fan are forthcoming in The New Republic. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Fulbright Program, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Yaddo and lives in New Haven.

photo credit: Seabamirum via photopin cc