A rotation of poems from this chapbook…
Geometry, Lost Cove
The ridge across this cove
is straight as a ruled line,
its bend as pure as an angle
on a student’s quadrilled page.
Beyond it another ridge lies
straight-backed, as well,
drawn off by its touch with sky.
Such perfection is a subject
I’d like to think about
here on this thin shelf of land:
the earth, for instance, seen
from an orbiting craft,
is smooth and round–
an eyeball, a gem on black cloth.
Where is the rough, rooty skin of it
we know, the jagged heights of pine,
poplar, sycamore, oak?
Where are our lumpy villages,
the brutish smoke of wars,
the unsmooth teem
of antlife in its scurry?
At a distance, surface is easy truth:
latitudes and longitudes, altitudes,
and lines acute, obtuse.
A mountain trail is straight as shot,
a slight incline from the east,
a thirty-degree descent
on the other face.
A hurricane is a cotton swirled disturbance
on a blue plate; yet underneath it
secreted on another plane,
pain rises red and anger-pussed.
This limpid, lustrous earth.
With this design
I make up my face
for someone combed
and groomed into the angled,
elegrant shape of vee,
leaning in an easy obtuse
against the far wall.
the Caney Fork River at 6:00 a.m.
The water’s words sleep muffled under an eider fog,
only a inconstant lap drinking the shore-rocks,
only a whir and spit of flyline-cast,
only the caw-caw waker of the wooded bank,
only the dip and step of a great blue heron
murmur a definition.
Summoned by desire into the gray stream
I cannot see, the water licks cold
through my waders, the stones round and slippery
underfoot. I am both alone and accompanied,
though all I know of my companions is a fishtail
swat, the water sliced by fly-tipped line.
My rod at my side in its case, I move downstream
to a spot remembered—but more like dream or hope.
It’s been so long since I’ve been here.
In the river I too am swallowed
until I disappear from sight.
I lose my bearings as I knew I would
and stand, unbalanced, no known thing
to spread a wing to, and wait out time.
A glittered point, a hint of gold, then burst
of sun—all in the moment it takes to breathe
a prayer. The world returns to line and face
and point, and I to know, but not at once,
geometry again: of the ordered river
on its limestone run, the gear I’ve packed,
and where each wakened fisher in the ripple stands.
For weeks I didn’t water Mother’s fern
that paled beneath the eaves. Among the wilting
fronds two doves sat still in solid watch,
ceramic thieves, eyes round and dark and stern.
One day the male was gone, the mother crouched
beside two downy young, necks thin with spring.
I ached at their beginning, fed from her mouth,
and watched for flight. I didn’t see their wings–
one day the nest was empty, just in time
to drench the fern and coax it back to life.
All this coming and going such a fragile rhythm:
water and sun, withhold and give, nurse and free .
My mother in a darkened room had packed for flight.
Her face like polished marble, set past sight.
From under the thick shell
that holds your papery life
and closes around your dying days,
every so often you emerge.
Out comes your craning neck,
listening for an old song
of rendez-vous, A Bicycle
Built for Two. Your blue
eyes find me, and know.
An arm slides out, a hand
craped as reptile skin
grasps mine and holds.
You hold mine against
the cool of your cheek.
Your mouth empty as a cave
finds an opening, a craggy
smile. Each day a nurse
stretches all your limbs,
you, splayed under sheets
like a terrapin overturned.
“You’ve got the best legs
in the clan,” we always said.
Still it’s true, all splotched
and crazed with these last years.
And though you said
again and again,
you were not smart or good,
(“No, siree!”) I see, now
(you all drawn-in except
that tiny head, the light
on your lipless mouth),
a kind of glow, or maybe
it’s a strain of song from
I can’t imagine what
ever tunneled ever-place
and a reaching in your face—
does a turtle smell a cool creek
not far away, or autumn
loam, and turn to it? Do we? —
and I know that smart or good
could not count for much
after a hundred years.
Only the hymn-singers like you
would worry so, only
the tenders of the poor, like you,
and you were smart enough,
Go, go I tell you,
to your burrow in the widening
dusk, and in the spring
I’ll crane my neck to hear you sing.
Poems from the book
This collection is my first, pulling together poems written prior to 2010 and published by me under the Weedy Editions mark. My brother, Paul Harmon, provided the cover art, the image a large canvas entitled “Renaissance.” I think we are re-birthed in a way each time we write a poem. A few poems in a lifetime will have that Renaissance effect on a reader.
The book is available at Amazon.com or by contacting me.