Peggy R. Ellsberg – Four Poems



In the drop zone it falls, rains
down, and white silk flutters above
its plummeting, and it consecrates
the ground it touches when it falls.
By this blue I mean blue like
the quick air when your personal
raptor wings by, blue like the Virgin’s
veil when she sits for her portrait,
blue as the bells strung over
each morning, blue as a clean
wind grazing in an empty paddock
waiting for horses to return.

Then, blue as a weeping eye, the wet grass
turns hoof-marked in the first light,
as the horses quietly arrive,
their wild blue calmed and listening,
stopping and sniffing at every note,
and you hold the notes in the shining blue
bowl of your mind. But look,
here is something new,
trembling and startled, empanelled
like a constellation on the night air,
a foal caught in a net of fading stars
something new for earth to keep.

Cygnet Swimming

Such large black
feet for a baby–
and such a big pot
good at what you do,
no pride, no shame, just paddling.
Flight and white beauty
float in your future.
And as though keeping a promise,
flowers bend and bow around
you, flowers stand all
around you in the rain.

Bob Steele’s Farm Report

Each morning the sound of Bob Steele’s
smooth baritone woke me from my
narrow upstairs bed of tousled sleep. Five AM.
Down in the kitchen, the farmer and the farmwife
waited for the A&P coffee to perc
strong in the pot. My mother turned the toast
on the grille. My father broke an egg
into a cup. The dog curled on the mat
by the door, waiting for the day of work,
listening, I suppose, as the big camel-back radio
crooned Bob’s soothing news: July winter
wheat, September hogs, paddock
boards for sale, baling wire at auction.
The gold-flecked fabric covering the wide
speaker glinted in her half-closed eyes,
the yellow kitchen light spreading
outward toward the farm.


For Deborah Butterfield

Two horses patiently feed.
Among the bare trees,
they eat scrubs of weed.
And in the white
wood, birches chirp with bird call.
Even now in dead winter, trees
stand, holding tight, holding the earth all
short day and all night.

And the horses just stand, harming nothing.
Their faces bless the cold air as they stand.
I carry this with me, the land
and the white and the wood and the song.
I linger on this, all short day and all night,
all cold day and night long.

Like kisses, on the ground, birds trade little seeds
and the earth offers horses some small scrubs of weeds.

And two horses repose, standing still side by side
in the white afternoons, where the brown earth has died.
Together they stand on the earth in the light
and it lights them awhile, one all brown and one white.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

On a bright but cool summer morning, my father is casting a fly rod out over the pond, his fishline arcing across the napoleon-blue sky; Shubert’s “Trout Quintet” swims softly from an open window; in a nearby field, my beautiful horse with the golden mane stops grazing and stands at ease, his ears relaxed as he connects effortlessly with the music, and I know that he is at prayer.


Professor of English at Barnard College and poet; two books published on Gerard Manley Hopkins [OUP; PLOUGH]. Have published poems in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Salmagundi, and many other journals.