NEA Literature Fellowships

Eric Pankey

Back to NEA Literature Fellowships
(2005 - Poetry)

The Thousand Thistle Seeds

Ten years ago, I followed a lizard
           Through a grassy, ruined amphitheater,
Followed where it led:

           Quick as quicksilver,
But green, not silver.
           Mute as ore, the lizard darted,

Skimmed, froze,
           Shinnied, insinuated like flame,
A pinpoint of pulse and flash.

           The lizard knew
The Etruscan wall's cracks,
           The downspouts,

The stone that blunts the plow,
           The mortar's and stucco's flaws.
The lizard dwelt in a present

           That extends, elongates, thins
Into a filament of consumed air.
           I followed the lizard

From brick chink to olive grove,
           Poppies to straw,
To sand and loam.

           I knew, for a moment, the balance
Between the intimate and the infinite,
           A word and what it reckons.

The sun on the hilltop
           Flared upon the thousand thistle seeds,
The thousand virtues, the thousand minerals,

            The thousandth of a second
It takes the lizard to taste the moment
           And change course.

Eric Pankey is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Oracle Figures and Reliquaries from Ausable Press. He is the Heritage Professor of Writing at George Mason University, where he teaches in the MFA Program.

Photo by Clare Atkinson Pankey

Author's Statement

The NEA support has given me the time and space to work on a new collection of poems which will be published in 2008. Instead of writing in stolen moments, I have had the privilege and luxury of taking time to refine my art and craft, to reflect upon the possibilities of that art and craft. I am deeply indebted to the NEA for its confidence in my poetry and for its continued support.