Monday, 21 December 2020

The Festive Backroom 6: Elizabeth Jacobson

I am so pleased to feature another brilliant voice from across the Atlantic today, a poet from New Mexico. Elizabeth Jacobson is the Poet Laureate of Santa Fe, New Mexico and an Academy of American Poets Poet Lauerate Fellow in 2020.  Her most recent book, 'Not into the Blossom and Not into the Air', won the New Measure Poetry Prize, and the 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for both New Mexico Poetry and Best New Mexico Book. Her other books include 'Her Knees Pulled In' (Tres Chicas Books, 2012). She is the founding director of the WingSpan Poetry Project, a not-for-profit which from 2013-2020 conducted weekly poetry classes in battered family and homeless shelters in New Mexico. Elizabeth is the Reviews Editor for the on-line literary journal and she teaches poetry workshops regularly in the Santa Fe community.

 Here she reads two wonderful poems about our interactions with the natural world, interactions which reveal of course as much about ourselves:  'Curator of Insects' and 'Canyon Road'. 


Curator of Insects

I started asking questions about how human bodies held together.
Already I was of a certain age,

and not seeing any usual patterns.
My mind had become fuzzier,

mirroring the now fuzzier vision of my eyes.
I read about hymenoptera vision,

how paper wasps and honeybees
can remember the characteristics of a human face.

And since a dragonfly had remembered me,
I knew that this is true for them as well.

Some insects live only a few hours
or a few weeks,

30 days for a fruit fly,
2 months for a horse fly.

I saw the age of the body
might never again match the stretch of its will,

and like Keats, who remarked on the fading animation of his hand
at the end of his life,

there grew a sadness for this former vivacity,
yet unlike Keats, I had joy in its release.

Some of the things I do seem to move backwards.
Others feel as if they have a spherical momentum.

As I grow older, it all appears to taper,
yet there is also a broadening,

and although this is illogical,
this is what happens to people.

The dropping away leaves space,
which quickly floods with small things

like blue-eyed dragonflies in flight,
facing me in the early morning,

or saving an ant from drowning
in a puddle of warm rainwater.

I cultivate flowers and trees for a small variety of bees,
offer them aspen and willow for when they are ailing.

They scrape the resin off the leaves
and secure it to their back legs.

A box elder bug has been resting on the base of the desk lamp for days,
his tender black limbs secured around the cord.

He is close to death, and waiting.
All my life, I tell him, I have been told I should not see the things I see,

the way I see them.
It is too late for all that now.

He turns his head and thorax toward my voice,
his opaque bead eyes red with inquiry.

From Not into the Blossoms and Not into the Air by Elizabeth Jacobson. (c) 2019 by Parlor Press. Used by permission.

Canyon Road

Driving on black ice—
I braked too hard,
spun into a 360

and then two more.
Like a boom of a sailboat,
the back of the car

slammed a dog.
In the midnight darkness
I got out to find a coyote,

his abdomen torn open.
The canine held my gaze
as I cradled his head,

one palm above his brow
the other on his snout,
and hugged him to my thigh

until the chasm
of his breath closed.
An aloneness,

not loneliness
came from the animal—
yellow flecks inside his eyes

flashed for an instant
before they turned to ice.
I tucked the coyote’s cooling body

under pine brush,
covered it with snow.
Nothing is made less by dying.

Walking the next morning,
in the early fog,
I watched a Cooper’s hawk

fly up and up, above the road
to scan the world for prey,
then spiral down, effortlessly, 

as if it were a single feather—
hollow shaft travelling
toward the white frost.

Canyon Road first appeared in Zocalo Public Square 

Her Profile and more poems in Academy of American Poets:

Her Website:



  1. Two glorious poems! Fine, fine writing. Would appreciate details regarding purchase of Ms Jacobson's books. John Rice, Icklesham, East Sussex, England UK.

  2. As always, two gorgeous poems by Elizabeth!