Skunks (wr. 1953)

The corruptions of war and peace, the public and wholesale crimes that
    make war, the greed and lies of the peace
And victor's vengeance: how at a distance
They soften into romance — blue mountains and blossomed marshes in the
    long landscape of history — Calligula
Becomes an amusing clown, and Genghiz
A mere genius, a great author of tragedies. Our own time’s chiefs of
    massacre — Stalin died yesterday —
Watch how soon blood will bleach, and gross horror
Become words in a book.

                                                We have little animals here, slow-stepping
    cousins of stoat and weasel,
Striped skunks, that can spit from under their tails
An odor so vile and stifling that neither wolf nor wild-cat dares to come
    near them; they walk in confidence,
Solely armed with this loathsome poison gas.
But smelled far off — have you noticed? — it is surprisingly pleasant. It is like
    the breath of ferns and wet earth
Deep in a wooded glen in the evening,
Cool water glides quietly over the moss-grown stones, quick trout dimple
    the pool. — Distance makes clean.

This poem is included in the following anthologies:

Robinson Jeffers: Selected Poems, Vintage Books, 1965.

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