Slate Poem: “Little Killing Ditty”

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Hello, readers! This week’s poem from Slate is actually from a few weeks ago on the Slate site, but I’m sure you won’t mind. The poem is entitled Little Killing Ditty and is written by Christian Wiman. As always, I’d like to suggest that you surf on over to the Slate site and take a few minutes out of your day to listen to Christian Wiman read his poem. Just take a few minutes of your day to relax and enjoy some poetry.

According to his page on the famous poets and poetry website, Christian Wiman “is an American poet and editor. He was born (1966) and raised in West Texas and is a graduate of Washington and Lee University. He has taught at Northwestern University, Stanford University, Lynchburg College in Virginia, and the Prague School of Economics. Since 2003, he has been editor of the oldest and most prestigious American magazine of verse, Poetry (magazine).”

Little Killing Dittyby Christian Wiman

I have forgotten the little killing ditty
whispered to the red birds and the blue birds and the brown birds
not one of which I ever thought to give a name.

In the tall mesquite mistaking our yard
for a spacious place, I plugged away with my pellet gun
and got them often even in the eye, for I was trained

to my craft by primordial boredom
and I suppose some generic, genetic rage
I seem to have learned to quell or kill.

They dropped like the stones I’d throw in Catclaw Creek
or fluttered spastically and panickedly up
whereupon I took more tenacious aim—

much more difficult now because they moved
—not me, frozen as if in a camera’s flash—
troubling the tyranny of the ordinary

as if a wave of meaning or unmeaning
went rippling like heat through the yard.
Fire and fire and they fell and they fall, hard.

I felt nothing, and I will not betray those days
if days are capable of being betrayed,
by pretending a pang in my larval heart

or even some starveling joy when Tuffy yelped.
I took aim at the things I could not name.
And the ditty helped.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s poem! Stay tuned next for another dose of poetry on a Tuesday.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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