Bionote: In 1976, I moved with my family to Fairbanks, Alaska to teach for a year in the creative writing program at the University of Alaska. I’m still there. I’ve published seven books of poetry, as well as a collection of essays. The Moving Out: Collected Early Poems, is the latest, from Salmon Poetry. Here are some samples from the book. For more information, visit my website: www.johnmorganpoet.com
ABOVE THE TANANA: JULY
-for John Hildebrand-
The wind is up, the cottony seeds
of poplars ride the blow. The river's
full of life--salmon, burbots,
and beavers near the shore. Seagulls
float above and call. Last year you
sat here too and said, "The river's
the old road--the only way to go."
We talked about your boat, your
thousand-mile journey to the coast.
The water moves against the wind,
its motion giving access to
new thought. Is that black thing a log
or what--poking around across the way
where smoke angles from a fish-camp tent
like scented silver spray. Alone
I find I've spread like smoke.
Hurried here and there among the fertile
trees, mosquitoes shun me. How close am I
to grace (I ask) and then recall
I'm forty-two this month, halfway to
hell and gone. Still, what's another year?
I'm always different but the same.
You built a cabin once, hoping to find
a life, and found your separate
loneliness instead, when your first child
died. Ah, John, I've built here too,
five thousand miles from my youth.
Each journey circles round some
absent truth. Meanwhile, I'm going
no place in this snow of seeds,
finished with one more year, one
half a life, and starting out again.
Two adolescent summers
wasting in the basement
of the Peabody Museum
the dampness from stones
rising along my arms, sleeveless as I dusted
the bones of
a thousand extinct pigs: it seems
I have written about this before,
moving down the stacks from drawer
to drawer, seems I
will always be writing the poems
that might have soothed me
then. Then as now
the smell of damp stones, of
bones, of wood aging, in basements and slow dust,
pieces of tedium drifting down
and down on the calm air.
And then up to lunch
in the bright fluorescent
hall of birds, table on
table lined with limp bodies, sparrows and weavers,
auks, hawks, and puffins, all typed, all
labeled, gold-, red-, green-, and brown-feathered lumps
laid out behind us as we ate.
I toss my lunch bag
into the bin, again the slow freight
elevator, dim and rusting,
lowers me down and down.
The boy on the beach, maybe
ten, watches the waves come in.
He was there before us, we've
been here an hour, and it makes me
remember Kansas. There's not much to do in
Kansas, so you learn to be patient,
to sit there and look at the sky
till it answers back with your name.
Then the day takes you into its
vast impersonal mill. The wind
blows over you and the fields
listen, until life fills you up.
What you glean at that age
has no name, but it stays.
So, today, in Mexico, I can sit and watch the
boy watching the waves, the changing
light, and nothing is happening—a tern,
a lolloping gull—and out there beyond
the sky, the spider spinning and spinning
the life which is here inside,
and you just have to wait for it!
© 2019 John Morgan
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