Thomas Hornsby Ferril, 1896–1988, was a major figure in literary circles of the American West for nearly half a century. Winner of the 1926 Yale Younger Poets award for High Passage, and honored by such poets as Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost, Ferril created poetry that is musical, metrical, and meant to be read aloud. Westering was Ferril’s second collection of poetry, originally published by Yale University Press in 1934 and reprinted by Ahsahta in 1986. Ahsahta Press also brought out Ferril’s 1983 book Anvil of Roses, his sixth and final book of poems.
The full text of Thomas Ferril’s Westering is stored at Albertson Library at Boise State University, and can be downloaded here. You may also purchase a copy of the book.
There’s blue-stemmed grass as far as I can see,
But when I take the blue-stemmed grass in hand,
And pull the grass apart, and speak the word
For every part, I do not understand
More than I understood of grass before.
“This part,” I say, “is the straight untwisted awn,”
And “Here’s the fourth glume of the sessile spikelet,”
And then I laugh out loud at what I’ve done.
I speak with reason to the blue-stemmed grass:
“This grass moves up through meadow beasts to men.”
I weigh mechanical economies
Of meadow into flesh and back again.
I let the morning sun shine through my hand,
I trace the substance bloom and beast have given,
But I ask if phosphorus or nitrogen
Can make air through my lips mean hell or heaven.
All that the grass can make for any beast
Is here within my luminous hand of bone
And flesh and blood against the morning sun;
But I must listen alone, and you, alone,
Far children to be woven from green looms;
We move forever across meadows blowing,
But like no beast, we choke and cannot cry
When the grasses come, and when the grass is going.
Copyright © 1934 by Thomas Hornsby Ferril