Pheasant Court (and other poems)

Pheasant Court

It’s been years since I thought about
the ring-necked pheasants that came down
from the woods and into my yard
when I was a boy. My mother 
woke me one Christmas morning 
to tell me they were here, their heads
and necks shimmering like tree tinsel,
their long tail feathers bright 
as new copper pipes. They waltzed 
among our frost-covered garden,
dipping and strutting over the furrows,
then disappeared at the first sight
of our young collie Caesar.
My father said the game warden 
stocked the woods for hunters
and sometimes strays survived
nested in the trees near the dying farmer’s
fields. His children sold the land 
for housing tracts, named the new roads 
after grace that passes so quickly 
in and out of our lives.

One Mountain Seen Through the Trees of Another Mountain

Maps never show a view like this,
yellow blazes on trees leading
to a ridge, the trail so close
to the edge just walking feels
like falling. A five-day trip away
from towns or news of the world
brings me to moments so sublime
I forget myself. Anthropologist say
joy in landscapes is burned into our DNA, 
distance a factor of dreams. Below, 
the lake is starting to ice over, a cold
that’s been building for years. And this
mountain loop I’m walking could go
on too. In the next county there’s a hill
called Hope, and here one called
Sanctuary. I’m walking down it now
to a lake the settlers used to feed
their families. Its feeder creek
powered the old iron forge also 
called Hope. So many things named
for what we want. Or is it what 
we have? My legs grow sore 
on the rocky trails I climb
to get home. This path called 
Daybreak might be the one.

Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much?

                                                            —Walt Whitman

Today from a ridge top I can see a thousand
acres ripened with maples and chestnut oak.

The last road an hour out of sight. Rain
a season old still draining from spring cricks. 

Is this what we save the soul for? Losing
grip on a cliff edge, a river still remembers 

what it was like to carry coal dust, 
the occasional body, over white rapids. 

Still a million raptors navigate the pass
every year, chasing summer into hollows

and gorging on sparrows. Four sharptails 
just now cartwheeled in the wind. A bridge

is falling somewhere. There are protests 
in Tehran and Prague and a furniture sale 

at the home goods store. I’m tired 
of walking today, but the sky is blue 

crayon blue, and the ridgetop haired
by low blueberry bushes stained russet 

by October, so I’ll settle for a solo 
of meditation while fewer birds migrate

south again, some music in the wind I can’t 
put a name to, stuck in my head like hunger.

Last Mint

Even at the dry hinge that closes
summer into fall, when the mower
cuts down the last surviving mint,
its bright scent lingers
like a spiderweb after rain
the way some lives do, thriving
even when all signs say otherwise.
This mother of bees through summer,
accent to tea and gin, is even
now preparing roots for winter
as our transitory geese announce 
their night flights, leaving 
behind a season’s dead weight 
and long evenings with firelight.  
Still, a fresh green shoot 
is trying to hold out 
alongside red rose haw 
and pumpkin, creeping 
along the ground, something 
new to wrap your hand around.


  • Grant Clauser is the author of five books, most recently Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven (winner of the Codhill Press Poetry Award). Poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, Kenyon Review, Tar River Poetry, and others. He works as an editor in Pennsylvania, and teaches at Rosemont College.

  • Novel and astonishing as they may have been for Enlightenment readers, it is difficult for us to comprehend how the magnifications of lice, fleas, houseflies, and other vermin might have been conceived as amusements for the mind and eyes. In full hand-colored clarity, stingers, pincers, biting mouthparts, and other irksome insect organs become menacing monsters thanks to the powers of the microscope in Martin Frobenius Ledermüller’s three-volume Microscopic Delights of the Mind and Eyes. For all of their scientific verisimilitude, microscopes were first and foremost instruments of wonder, and Ledermüller (1718–1769) — a German polymath, physician, and keeper of the Margrave of Brandenburg’s natural history collection — extolls their virtues for illustration and pure entertainment. Along with the vermin, Ledermüller gave state-of-the-art descriptions of plant, animal, and human organs, fungi, plankton, and crystals that accompany more than 150 attractive colored plates, produced by Nuremberg publisher, artist, and engraver Adam Wolfgang Winterschmidt. From Public Domain Review.