Samples of the poet’s work:
The world is always rolling between our legs.
It comes for us, dribbler, slow roller,
humming its goat song, easy as pie.
We spit in our gloves, bend our stiff knees,
keep it in front of us, our fathers' advice,
but we miss it every time, its physic, its science,
and it bleeds on through, blue streak, heart sore,
to the four-leaf clovers deep in right field.
The runner scores, knight in white armor,
the others out leaping, bumptious, gladhanding,
your net come up empty, Jonah again.
Even the dance of the dead won't come near you,
heart in your throat, holy of holies,
the oh of your mouth as the stone rolls away,
as if it had come from before you were born
to roll past your life to the end of the world,
till the world comes around again, gathering steam,
heading right for us again and again,
faith of our fathers, world without end.
My Father Swearing
Bitch, he’d say, always, when he could not work the wood his way,
bitch, as if there were a goddess of all his troubles, grinning,
a woman at the wellspring who skewed the nail, split the joist,
drove his hefted hopes deep into the ground,
bitch, his woe, his wound, his eldest curse.
And we would gather, hidden, my brothers and I,
huddled like shepherds by the door to the shed
to hearken to the litany surely to follow, the dam that would burst,
his power and rage, hammer and tongue.
Bastard then, predictably, and a marriage was made,
like an Adam come lately to a paradise of swearing,
the bitch and the bastard driven out of the garden
to bedevil him further, to beat the bejesus,
like a two-headed god, both mouths washed out with soap,
come to witness, come to share in the blame.
Then son of a bitch, and it all became clear,
a family, procreation, the Gilgamesh epic,
a new generation gathered against him,
and we were the children and he was the father
as he battered the wood, the precision gone out,
gone into the word, the word become flesh.
Then, always, incarnate, the rhythm established,
a flurry, a billingsgate of bitch of a bitch,
and bitch of a bastard, and son of a bitch of a bitch
of a bastard. There structure was born,
prepositional phrases, like blue Chinese lanterns hung out
beneath the moon, this swearing to God, this awful begatting.
We broke at that point, skedaddled, running off to the lilacs,
covering our mouths for fear we’d be heard,
to say in that darkness what was forbidden in the light,
a language mixed with laughter lifting up between the trees,
a forefathers’ song, the words that made the world.
The Sound that the Earth Makes(AP) - Scientists report that each planet gives offI do not know where the old men go
its own peculiar sound. One scientist described
the sound that the earth makes as “sad.”
when they walk out alone in the night.
I know they must carry the weight of their lives
in the curl of their sullied and empty hands.
I know that their children have gone out of them
and are lost in the world, are ineffably lost.
I know that the wives live their measure of sadness,
that their hands are both busy and breaking.
I know that the old men walk out in the night
to escape from the clatter of young men and talking,
that they stand by themselves in the darkness,
that they hold what is in them for as long as they can,
that a sound rises up from them, awkward and lonely,
drifts through the fields like the cry of a night owl,
lifts like a stillness gone up from the trees,
to where they are going, to where they remember,
to the endless river of stars.
We are our parents now, my wife and I, afternoon naps,
our bed a soft raft on which we float,
two leaves curled up, let loose on a river.
In my dream I am sweeping leaves in the cellar,
leaves that have worked their way in somehow, a crack perhaps,
or the bulkhead as I cleaned out the gutters.
My dead father pulls up in a Mayflower van,
checks his maps, frowns. He is still lost, says he grieves
for his country, thinks I might have a notion to move.
I say no, wave. He pulls away empty, yellow ship, green ocean.
I wake first, watch the afternoon light on her face.
She is so still I check the rise and fall of the sheet
the way her parents must worry that one day
one or the other will not wake. Will she die first?
I wish for her what she would wish for herself.
Her dream? She says there are beaches in heaven,
cabanas, that it looks a little like Mexico.
I say people there might think heaven was here,
past Winslow Homer’s black man in the Gulf,
his mastless boat surrounded by sharks,
past the endless currents, the rivers of sadness,
past our parents, floating, noble and alone,
to this blanketed place in the gathering night.
Click here to read more poems by John Hodgen.
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