I’ve been quarantined by the gods.
Do no harm, they said.
Tell no secrets. I had stored
my spirit in the big willow tree to the west
of my study on the advice of Rumi.
It was getting badly bruised every day
and my spirit needed a resting place.
I forgot where I put it when you
should check it every morning.
I sank lower and lower until one day
I called it back from the tree
then wrote a pretty good poem.
There is no time to fool around, the gods said.
They blew my poem with the wind to
the top of Antelope Butte. I can’t walk there
with my cane. Some gods have been dead
a thousand years and need our magic
and music to come back to life.
We owe it to them. They got us started.
Jim Harrison, “Quarantine” from Complete Poems. Copyright © 2021 by Jim Harrison. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press. See coppercanyonpress.org.