James Dickey
Atlanta, Georgia
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The Heaven Of Animals

Rating: 4.8
Here they are. The soft eyes open.
If they have lived in a wood
It is a wood.
If they have lived on plains
It is grass rolling
Under their feet forever.

Having no souls, they have come,
Anyway, beyond their knowing.
Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.
The soft eyes open.

To match them, the landscape flowers,
Outdoing, desperately
Outdoing what is required:
The richest wood,
The deepest field.

For some of these,
It could not be the place
It is, without blood.
These hunt, as they have done,
But with claws and teeth grown perfect,

More deadly than they can believe.
They stalk more silently,
And crouch on the limbs of trees,
And their descent
Upon the bright backs of their prey

May take years
In a sovereign floating of joy.
And those that are hunted
Know this as their life,
Their reward: to walk

Under such trees in full knowledge
Of what is in glory above them,
And to feel no fear,
But acceptance, compliance.
Fulfilling themselves without pain

At the cycle’s center,
They tremble, they walk
Under the tree,
They fall, they are torn,
They rise, they walk again.
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COMMENTS
Roxanne Dubarry 26 June 2016
You were privileged many years ago, in a dream. You beheld the world one of its nobliest beasts, the horse!
2 1 Reply
Donna Aquino 19 November 2015
I understand some commenters' problem with the line 'having no soul.' Being a longtime fan of Dickey's I think he meant this with irony, a technique he often used, a clear rebuke to those who really do believe this. It was clear to me that he does believe animals have souls from this loving and respectful poem.
4 2 Reply
. Loved the beginning and ending of the poem but got lost in the middle.
3 2 Reply
Savita Tyagi 26 July 2014
Lovely poem. However I am ignoring the lines ' having no soul however they have come'. Essence of life is soul and all life is possessed by it.
4 2 Reply
Kevin Patrick 26 July 2013
a wonderful commemoration of all life forms, although I do have a problem with his reference to animals not possessing a soul, suggesting they should not be treated humanly, I did enjoy the reflection that the simplicity of an animal requires them to see heaven as the state of existing within their own domain and not in search of the hopeless pursuit that we humans look for a life aver after. Their heaven is this world as it should be ours, at least that what I interpret
6 2 Reply
Lamont Palmer 24 May 2008
Most people forget what an interesting poet Dickey was, due to his novel (and subsequent film) 'Deliverance' overshadowing his poetic accomplishments. But he was a good poet before he became a bestselling novelist. Enjoyed the read. -LP
7 9 Reply
Sandra Fowler 05 March 2006
A beautiful, poignant portrayal of the future of all living things. Imagination could do no more. Thank you for sharing. Regards, Sandra Fowler
7 8 Reply

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