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
My Monogamous Voice
"I was expecting the poet just to read in a monogamous voice."
from a student paper
It's mostly a matter of re-reading, of course,
and not just poems but the bathroom sink,
the dog's leash, a mug of tea cooling on the counter
and her voice in the next room laughing
on the phone. I read it all in my monogamous voice
like smoke on a foggy day, like rain over the lake,
like the sound of traffic moving both toward
and away. I am married to my mailbox,
toaster, windowscreens, and extra pillow.
My pillow and I will soon mark
our fifty-eighth anniversary, which we will
celebrate by rolling over for another
twenty minutes of sleep, or an hour, or ten years,
and meanwhile the long-married crows
will have moved out of the oak closest to our bed
after waking us, and by then they'll be
scolding the stones of the cemetery. I am still
on my first marriage to the music of what happens,
and to grass, and pulling ticks from my hair,
and tiptoeing up a creaky set of stairs, careful
not to wake her. All sensible folk are in bed
by now, dreaming of chargers and storm-rippled
banners, dreaming of tents billowing beautifully,
all the gifts and habits of the true wind
to which I have been betrothed my whole life.
My Forgettable Face
I look like someone you may know,
but you aren't sure. This makes you
uncomfortable, scanning my over-eager eyes
as I tack across the hotel lobby
toward you, or drift down the aisle
after your lecture, or lift my glass in toast
as you enter the bar. You're very sorry,
I certainly do seem familiar, but could I
help you just a little bit in placing
this mild and slightly worried face
somewhere, sometime in your busy
and fast-fading album. It's not just
my common name that's vaporized,
but my glasses, my beard, my now
graying hair, and every wise
or slightly humorous thing you once
remarked on. Oh, it was long ago--
we've all forgotten whole rosters
and catalogs since then. And of course
I never ignited or leapt off the edge,
just marked time for a time
at your side, all the while thinking,
I'm embarrassed to say, that we might
be headed in the same direction.
Its veins rising now out of well-lined wrinkles
put me in mind of my father
sooner than anything else these days.
On the phone Mom reports
she's been re-reading his obits and eulogies.
Yes, I say, hard to believe it's been a full year.
But what I'm thinking is: this hand
at rest on my desk. It's his. Along with
the silence we both listen to then
for half a minute over the long distance line.
©2017 David Graham
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