Donelle Dreese – Five Poems


Earth Mothers

They came in early spring.
They asked the hard, dry fields
to be patient. They folded dirt
into buckets and planted seeds
not knowing if the green shoots
of prayer would bear fruit. They
surrounded an Oriole’s cradle
packed with eggs and sang songs
in low-throated melodies of birth.
They brought with them tones
of the sea hoping the memories
of marshlands would feed
the waterfowl. The earth mothers
come every spring and we don’t
see them, rowing and sowing
dangling spit on their fields
when the rain doesn’t come.
They are fathers too, with boot
prints that circle the barn, eyes
reminiscent of lost woods. We
are reminded, when birds of hunger
peck beneath the rib cage, that we
are beholden to the peculiar magic
of soil, to the hands that till and toss it.

Instead of Crying, She Shovels Mud

            for Sangduen “Lek” Chailert

Elephants rumble
in flat grass fields.

Skin–earthy, ancient
slick with fog
grasshopper rain.

Instead of crying
she shovels mud
builds sanctuaries
homes for herds
and snout-swinging
curious calves
lingering near pools
of purple fruit
and shaman dust.

Ghost men watch
from poaching posts
eyeing the ivory.

Her touch is a balm
against the onslaught.

If only she could
sleep standing up.

The Patient Universe

                        for Jane Goodall

Knowledge in Tanzania
was an envelope sealed with wax.

She held the flame close enough
long enough, without burning it

until her light unfolded the forest canopy
unzipped the greens gowns of Gombe.

After a year, they went to her for bananas
taught her their language, groomed her

while the patient universe grew its hair
and stretched again its long, starry legs.  


You’ve stepped into your birdhouse
undiminished, second womb, acorn cup
of warm blood, a place to rest before time
disfigures your sage and aging embryo.

You find a sea of seeds and twigs
dirt memories to kick with the foot
a boughless space for one thought at a time
an idea cradled in a wooden envelope.

Then the flutter in your arms drums
and stirs a soft chestnut feather cloud
as the house shakes and squeezes, pushes 
your struggling ambitionist out the door. 

When a Romantic Dreams
of the Four Seasons 

A trail of dewed apples
            leads to a honeycomb
            that slow drips golden eggs
            onto dandelion greens.

Roses roll down rooftops
            from a floral rain. Fragrance
            spreads like sea foam and fog
            across jade throats of grass.

A violin bow in November stirs
            leaves into singing whirlpools
            punctures the heart
            of a yellow mum.

The great hush of winter
            sits in a vast snowfield
            under the limb of an evergreen
            waits for the black call of crows.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

It could be a pause formed from wonder, or a moment of awakening to who we really are, our true nature. It is everywhere, I believe. Ubiquitous, like air. Perhaps it is the reason why we are here, why we do anything.


Donelle Dreese is a Professor of English at Northern Kentucky University. She is the author of three collections of poetry, Sophrosyne (Aldrich Press), A Wild Turn (Finishing Line) and Looking for A Sunday Afternoon (Pudding House). Donelle is also the author of the ecofiction novels Deep River Burning (WiDo Publishing), and Cave Walker (Moon Willow Press). More at: