Home > The Crowd > In the still forest heard from far away

In the still forest heard from far away

September 20, 2010

by Alex Cigale

In the still forest
a noisome bellow
like a bull gator’s
a wild grunting sound
heard from far away
each grunter his own

particular timbre
hammering a stob
a short wooden stake
inches in the ground
with a heavy iron
shaft called the roop

drawing it back and
forth over the top
to send vibrations
into the mound
the tremors driving
crawlers to the surface

in trembling droves
swarming en masse
in prompt answer to some
indistinct instinct
escaping earthquakes
to breathe or to breed —

split down the middle
one worm becomes two
making either a head
or a tail of it
but species survival
is never a sure thing —

you don’t go worming
you don’t get to eat.

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Note: See “Worm-Grunting: Luring Earthworms Out of the Ground” for a video of the practice. This poem is included in Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined, an anthology from HeartLodge.org in search of a publisher.

Alex Cigale’s poems recently appeared in The Cafe, Colorado, Global City, Green Mountains, and North American reviews, Gargoyle, Hanging Loose, Redactions, Tar River Poetry, 32 Poems, and Zoland Poetry, online in Contrary, Drunken Boat, H_ngm_n, McSweeney’s, and are forthcoming in Many Mountains Moving and St. Petersburg Review. His translations from the Russian can be found in Crossing Centuries: the New Generation in Russian Poetry, in The Manhattan, St. Ann’s, and Yellow Medicine reviews, online in OffCourse, Danse Macabre and Fiera Lingue, and forthcoming in Crab Creek Review and Modern Poetry in Translation. He was born in Chernovsty, Ukraine and lives in New York City.

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  1. September 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I really enjoyed the sounds in this one–“stob” and “indistinct instinct” are fantastic.

  2. Heather Reid
    September 21, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Great poem. Particularly like the final 8 lines. An interesting subject to tackle.

  3. September 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you Hannah and Heather. Yes, “stob” and “roop” are particularly mimetic and the “deep image” of a colony acting almost as a single organism mystical. Plus it’s such a piece of Americana that the subject seemed a natural. Don’t hesitate to be in touch should the occasion arise. Also, please come back to take a look; I will have another poem later in the Crowd issue, “Today my shower came from the heavens,” that begins “Lying very still, my ear to the ground,/I can hear voices, what the river said,/water lapping stones: I love you, love you…. ” Cordially and collegially, Alex.

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