Poetry by A. R. Ammons

Poems in this collection
Grassy Sound
I Broke a Sheaf of Light
Triphammer Bridge
Touching Down


Motion’s the dead give away,
eye catcher, the revealing risk:
the caterpillar sulls on the hot macadam

but then, risking, ripples to the bush:
the cricket, startled, leaps the
quickest arc: the earthworm, casting,

nudges a grassblade, and the sharp robin
strikes: sound’s the other
announcement: the redbird lands in

an elm branch and tests the air with
cheeps for an answering, reassuring
cheep, for a motion already cleared:

survival organizes these means down to
tension, to enwrapped, twisting suasions:
every act or non-act enceinte with risk or

prize: why must the revelations be
sound and motion, the poet, too, moving and
saying through the scary opposites to death.


White, flipping

flutters by and
over shrubs,
meets a binary

mate and they
spin, two orbits
of an

invisible center;
over the roof

and caught on
rise higher

than trees and
higher and up
out of sight,

swifter in
ascent than they
can fly or fall.

Grassy Sound

It occurred to me there are no
sharp corners
in the wind
and I was very glad to think
I had so close
a neighbor
to my thoughts but decided to
sleep before

I Broke a Sheaf of Light

I broke a sheaf of light
from a sunbeam
that was slipping through thunderheads
drawing a last vintage from the hills
O golden sheaf I said
and throwing it on my shoulder
brought it home to the corner
O very pretty light I said
and went out to my chores
The cow lowed from the pasture and I answered
yes I am late
already the evening star
The pigs heard me coming and squealed
From the stables a neigh reminded meyes I am late having forgot
I have been out to the sunbeam
and broken a sheaf of gold
Returning to my corner
I sat by the fire with the sheaf of light
that shone through the night
and was hardly gone when morning came


If a rock on the slope
loosens tonight
will it be because
unearthed another grain
or a root
arched for room
will a tree or rock
be right
there, or two rocks or trees,
to hold the
flashed decision back?

Triphammer Bridge

I wonder what to mean by sanctuary, if a real or
apprehended place, as of a bell rung in a gold
surround, or as of silver roads along the beaches

of clouds seas don’t break or black mountains
overspill; jail: ice here’s shapelier than anything,
on the eaves massive, jawed along gorge ledges, solid

in the plastic blue boat fall left water in: if I
think the bitterest thing I can think of that seems like
reality, slickened back, hard, shocked by rip-high wind:

sanctuary, sanctuary, I say it over and over and the
word’s sound is the one place to dwell: that’s it, just
the sound, and the imagination of the sound-a place.

Touching Down

Body keeps talking under the mind
keeps bringing up lesser views
keeps insisting
but coaxingly in pale tones

that the mind come on back, try
to get some rest,
allow itself to
be consoled

by slighter rather than slackened
thirst: body keeps with light touch
though darkening
lines sketching

images of its mortality but not
to startle the mind further off
all right all right


I look for the way
things will turn
out spiralling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will

not the shape on paper-though
that, too-but the
uninterfering means on paper:

not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours.