Poem: Excerpts from the poem ‘Headlands Quadrats’

These excerpts are a masterpiece of opposites – form and disorder, the known and the unknown, desert and bloom, decline and hope. The small sections look physically like plots used for ecological studies, their interiors bursting with language, emotion and movement. The language occasionally truncates with oblique syntax. A deer’s fear is described in such a way that the reader can feel that fear through confused language. There’s also a more subtle surprise with the gentle synesthesia of “a coyote / just the color of July”. The repetition of war and complicity is skillfully handled: “the ridge we curl into/in another war//without trees for shade/their names have soldiers done too.” Poem selected by Victoria Chang

By Brian Teare

past the disused fortress
past the former nike rocket site

past the abandoned battery
past the empty cannon platform

past shelters lined with concrete
the ocean


I don’t know the rules
but I follow them

downhill to the extravagant
Thistle from which a deer

startles a spark
mainly for fear of flint


faster than predators
on the path I encounter

a coyote for the first time
exactly the color of July

in these hills without haste
full of bones, it turns to me


the houses every evening
lean on shadow

the ridge we curl up on
during another war

without shady trees
their names soldiers did too


ocean on the other side
from our sleep all plump

Mother of pearl means eternal
Wildflower season is not over yet

even though it’s late summer
Grasses that are already overseeding

Victoria Chang is a poet whose new volume of poetry is called The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). Her fifth volume of poetry, Obit (2020), was named a Notable Book and Time Must-Read by the New York Times. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in Antioch University’s MFA program. brian Tear is the author of six volumes of poetry, including Doomstead Days (Nightboat Books, 2019). He was a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow and is an Adjunct Professor in the English Department at the University of Virginia.

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