Poetry

Diane Ackerman – We Are Listening

“We are listening,
rapt among the Persian lilacs
and the crickets,
while radio telescopes
roll their heads, as if in anguish.”

– Diane Ackerman


In her poem, We Are Listening, Diane Ackerman pays homage the ‘blooming array’ of radio telescopes dotted over the earth, across deserts and fields, listening for any sign of life in the ‘endless swamp’ of the Universe. Ackerman, who is an poet, author and naturalist, holds the frailty of humans so lovingly in this poem, where she describes our ‘floppy bodies’ and ‘starboard hearts where love careens’, as well as the ‘cosmic loneliness’ that drives our intent listening for another ‘fragile I am.’ A lot like Rebecca Elson’s poem, Antidotes to a Fear of Death, We Are Listening is steeped in a sense of wonder at the scale of the universe, coupled with a tenderness towards the fragility of life.


We Are Listening

I.

As our metal eyes wake
to absolute night,
where whispers fly
from the beginning of time,
we cup our ears to the heavens.
We are listening

on the volcanic lips of Flagstaff
and in the fields beyond Boston
in a great array that blooms
like coral from the desert floor,
on highwire webs patrolled
by computer spiders in Puerto Rico.

We are listening for a sound
beyond us, beyond sound,

searching for a lighthouse
in the breakwaters of our uncertainty,
an electronic murmur
a bright, fragile I am.

Small as tree frogs
staking out one end
of an endless swamp,
we are listening
through the longest night
we imagine, which dawns
between the life and time of stars.

II.

Our voice trembles
with its own electric,
we who mood like iguanas
we who breathe sleep
for a third of our lives,
we who heat food
to the steaminess of fresh prey,
then feast with such baroque
good manners it grows cold.

In mind gardens
and on real verandas
we are listening,
rapt among the Persian lilacs
and the crickets,
while radio telescopes
roll their heads, as if in anguish.

With our scurrying minds
and our lidless will
and our lank, floppy bodies
and our galloping yens
and our deep, cosmic loneliness
and our starboard hearts
where love careens,
we are listening,
the small bipeds
with the giant dreams.

Diane Ackerman
From: Jaguar of Sweet Laughter

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