A NOTE TO MY SON ON THE MOUNTAIN WRITTEN
ON THE INSIDE OF A BOOK COVER AT CHRISTMAS
These books come your way
used, from places around the country.
I had them once and gave them away.
Giving them to you now, reminded
of their beauty, there’s nothing specific
I have in mind, no how to nuggets,
though there’s weather and mountains
in titles, that’s not it; neither
do I give a damn if you keep a journal
or write. Still there’s risk involved,
William Stafford only appears safe.
Whether you read them or not,
these books are the most dangerous
gifts pulled from a father’s backpack.
CONVERSATION ABOUT THE SHOEMAKER
OUTSIDE THE TEMPLE DOORS OF THE EMPIRE
What else could he do with all that money
but buy football uniforms and helmets?
He could buy toilets
for the people who make the shoes.
4 December 2013
LINES TO ROBERT BLY ON DAYS
LEADING UP TO ANOTHER BIRTHDAY
By midnight// The stars had already become huge talkers.
Robert Bly “Looking at the Stars”
The two volume biography
of Wallace Stevens sits at my feet Robert Bly,
along with the Modern Library edition of his poems and prose;
twenty-some years ago, it was Iron John
bringing me to senses in ways
confounding modern medicine. It’s thanks,
giving, and abundance I send to you
this evening, stolen sugar from the empire
in green tea. You remain one of the shepherds,
angry at our lazy church, and turning
towards 70, I remain a boy from North Dakota,
writing from a shack on wheels, tucked
among trees on a winter beach
off the Oregon coast, your translations
with their winged energy delighting me
as rain tap tap taps on the flat roof
of the mothership. Rain now in its third day.
My wife and I warm ourselves under covers
reading to each other, looking at pictures.
Sometimes your comments between poets
make me one with the rain, weeping.
We have covered much of the same territory,
but as I’ve said, I’m from North Dakota.
Dry land farming and all. The Lutherans
didn’t have the same ambition in our town.
Perhaps God became clear to us only in severity,
competing as he had to with those closer stars.
We talk slower, and our humor’s dry as winter wheat,
part of our response to being laughed at
on all sides of all borders. And Minnesota,
with those lakes stealing an image from the Chinese.
When Minnesotans entered the room,
we were taught to keep our heads down.
You were exotic, on television, distance exaggerated.
Your birth poem catches me off guard,
December 23, 1926. I hope you’re well.
Your voice arrives like Grandpa’s, on time.
I fight for this sound every day of my life.
The dark one, Krishna, walking with Jesus,
together in translations at winter solstice,
before the ocean, all of us, here,
watching whales in a winter storm.
26 November 2013