Today's poetry for today's world

Charles Goodrich


Charles Goodrich is the author of three volumes of poetry: A Scripture of Crows (Silverfish Review Press, 2013), Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden (Silverfish Review Press, 2010), and Insects of South Corvallis (Cloudbank Books, 2003), and a collection of essays about nature, parenting, and building his own house, The Practice of Home (Lyons Press, 2004).  He has also co-edited In the Blast Zone: Catastrophe and Renewal on Mount St. Helen (OSU Press, 2008).  A number of his poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer's Almanac.  After working for twenty-five years as a professional gardener, he presently serves as Program Director for the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word at Oregon State University.






To buy A Scripture of Crows click on the cover.








We're watching a lurid sunset
turn blood-red, bruise-blue,
the roiling cumulonimbus
tinted with oxides of nitrogen and sulfur
courtesy of a forest fire over by Sisters.


Knowing the compromised origin
of this breathtaking spectacle
muddles our pleasure with vague unease,
though you insist beauty is often messed up
with smoke, fire, and fumes. 


So we probably shouldn't read too much
into the scrub jay's startled exclamation,
or take the abrupt departure of several dozen robins
an omen of anything but nature's
inscrutable coming and going.


But now the wind picks up
and a fierce gust rips a branch
from the big-leaf maple,
Lights snuff out on the horizon.
Clouds pour in from the coast.


Out of the west comes an awful cawing,
then a scripture of crows scribbles the sky
hurtled along on a pelt of rain,
their cr
ies falling like scraps of burnt text
on our tenuous
peace of mind.



from A Scripture of Crows, Silverfish Review Press, 2013)




Click on Insects of South Corvallis to buy the book.





Vacuuming Spiders




I admire their geometrical patience,

the tidy way they wrap up leftovers,

their willingness to be the earth's

most diligent consumers of small bitternesses.


Sometimes at night I hear them

casting silk threads, clicking their spinnerets,

plucking their webs like blind Irish harpists.

I can almost taste the fruit of the fly

like sucking the pulp from a grape.


But when their webs on the ceiling

begin to converge, and the floor

glitters with shards of insect wings

I drag out the vacuum

and poke its terrible snout under the sofa,

behind the radio— everywhere,


for this is the home of a human being

and I must act like one

or the whole picture goes haywire.




--from Insects of South Corvallis, Cloudbank Books, 2004.




Click on Going to Seed to buy the book. 








            Sixteen years old and crippled with arthritis, she couldn’t have

weighed more than a half gallon of milk. Her cloudy eyes oozed a

milky fluid. We talked about putting her down, but if you scratched

her behind the ear, she would purr until she couldn’t catch a

breath.  And she’d still hobble over to the dish for her kibbles. 

            This morning, I found her on her pillow, cold and empty,

lighter than a bird.  My wife wrapped her in a scrap of wool tartan,

and I went to dig a grave between the lilacs.  My first shovel of earth

came up full of new potatoes, the size of eggs. 

            I know nothing about the transmigration of souls, but I made

potato salad for supper, and we talked about what kind of bird a cat

might become.




--from Going to Seed, Silverfish Review Press, 2009. 




Wild Geese



            I’m picking beans when the geese fly over, Blue Lake pole

beans I figure to blanch and freeze.  Maybe pickle some dilly beans. 

And there will be more beans to give to the neighbors, forcibly if


            The geese come over so low I can hear their wings creak, can

see their tail feathers making fine adjustments.  They slip-stream along

so gracefully, riding on each other’s wind, surfing the sky.  Maybe

after the harvest I’ll head south.  Somebody told me Puerto Vallarta is

nice.  I’d be happy with a cheap room.  Rice and beans at every meal. 

Swim a little, lay on the beach.

            Who are you kidding, Charles?  You don’t like to leave home

in the winter.  Spring, fall, or summer either.  True.  But I do love to

watch those wild geese fly over, feel these impertinent desires glide

through me.  Then get back to work.




--from Going to Seed, Silverfish Review Press, 2009. 




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