James Gurley


–at the conservation reserve outside London, Ontario–
after E.O. Wilson

The fox came upon us unexpectedly.
He froze and our world narrowed to a span
meters wide. I heard your words
break into fragments. So uneasy–
something so extraordinary
stood close to where we stood. His diaphragm
rising and falling, eyes searching
for any movement that might
betray us. The smell of water, the directional
bend of a plant stalk
mattered. I turned my head
and he vanished. Melted
into abstract description,
that’s just a metaphor for slyness,
malevolence, the implicit threat.
These qualities he channels
into his ability to stay alert.
Alive. It’s nearly dusk; the trees
suffused with dimming light.
We stop by a pond fringed with larch–
rest, still craving a sense
of the mysterious. Your words pour
in and around me, and I want to know the touch
of everything. Described this way,
it’s nothing but a glimpse
of one small animal.
Say it’s only myth: say he looks
at us from his own world. In the end
it’s enough to just believe.


“Biophilia” originally appeared in ARC and in Human Cartography (Truman State University Press, 2002).

James Gurley, originally from North Carolina, has lived in Seattle for over 22 years. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana, where he studied with Richard Hugo. His poems have appeared in American and Canadian journals. He has published two chapbooks, and one full-length collection of poetry, Human Cartography, winner of the T. S. Eliot Award. His writing has been supported with grants from Artist Trust and the Seattle and King County arts commissions, as well as a literary fellowship from the Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission.

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