A native of Johnstown, NY, I retired in June 2016 after 29 years of teaching writing and literature at Ripon College in Wisconsin. I've published six collections of poetry, including Stutter Monk and Second Wind; I also co-edited (with Kate Sontag) the essay anthology After Confession: Poetry as Confession. Essays, reviews, and individual poems have appeared widely, both in print and online. In recent years I've spent nearly as much time on photography as poetry. A gallery of my work is online here: http://instagram.com/doctorjazz
Paintings by John G. Armstrong
My father and mother gaze at each other
from opposite ends of the dining room--
matching oil portraits painted the year
I was born by my uncle, long dead,
and handed down to me. They’re
familiar and strange in equal measure now,
this young couple with dark dark hair
and liquid eyes, my mother slimmer
than I ever knew her, my poor father
obviously suffering from posing, even
in his casual, open-collared shirt.
They have long since ceased giving me
advice or admonitions, these guardians,
but sometimes as I turn out the light
to head upstairs for bed, I think
I hear them speaking quietly, steadily,
as they would behind their bedroom door
after all the house lights were doused,
dogs asleep on their beds, and only one
sleepless son left to listen in on sentences
rich with meaning but without words.
The Pump Handle
I love coming upon little bits of art
in woods or fields. The tiniest signs
of a human hand shaping, making.
Garland of grasses woven and left
by the creek. Twig figure standing
watch in the crotch of a box elder.
Smiley face sketched in fresh-fallen
snow. Curt + Libby 4EVR carved
on a beech trunk, now fallen
and slowly closing over with moss.
Even just a small stone centered
atop a larger. Anything that says
I was here, which is plenty to say
in this eroding world. So I was
sad to see the rusty old pump
in the middle of my favorite woods
had finally lost its handle, fallen
or torn off its pipe to join the duff,
or maybe carried off by kids.
The farm it watered long gone
even before I was born. But I’ve
marked the spot for thirty years
of hikes in all weathers, all
the while thinking of brothers
called in to supper, Holsteins
crowding up to the trough, some
mother humming her hymns
as the pump squealed
and gushed day after day.
©2017 David Graham
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF