Two Poems by Jeff Whitney

Perpetual Country (Blood)

It’s ok to be out of rivers and weak.

Even today, wind troubling the lake’s thin chemise,

two green birds kissing on a soldier’s cap,

a Kansas calf’s warm blood misting the bullet


made miraculous by speed. We fail so perfectly

as if it were designed. Sugar and sex the closest we come

to kingdom come. Friends grow children now

and I have to watch what I say about heaven


and birds. Is it better to let the shuttered window be

silent, to speak for it, or spit twelve swigs of gasoline

and let the whole thing go? I have given my other cheek


so many times. My sisters and brothers are waiting

near water to see the next miracle. That’s them,

their antennas up, god smeared all over their faces.

photo of a bear

“Bear in Grouse mountain” (image via Flickr user Yu-Chan Chen)

A Bear Falling

A bear falling from a tree

with a dart in its neck

is not quite a metaphor

for a hurried life,

or no-good ends.

At any rate a bear is falling

from a tree and I don’t care

for metaphor.

This is the goddamn world.

Sure we have loss, but when

did we not? Sure the clouds

are at our throats, but

isn’t this a happy kind of choke?

A bear is falling from a tree,

violently asleep. Imagine it

mid-air, back-first, in a city

you’ve never seen

in a country without words.

Imagine not knowing this earth,

hurtling toward it,

not quite unable to fly.

Jeff Whitney is the author of The Tree With Lights in it, available from Thrush Press, while Radio Silence (Black Lawrence Press) and Smoke Tones (Phantom Books) were co-written with poet Philip Schaefer. His poems can be found in journals such as Adroit, Beloit Poetry Journal, Blackbird, Colorado Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, and Verse Daily. He lives in Portland, where he teaches English.