I was born in Denver, Colorado, on the westernmost edge of the Great Plains, and I’ve always responded to and aspired to a quality in poetry that I can only call “clarity.” Not that I’m interested in clarity at the expense of honest complexity; after all, light is not always benign: it blinds as often as it reveals, as anyone who’s grown up in my part of the world would know. That duality fascinates me and continues to shape my work. I’ve published 15 collections of poems over the years, most recently Marked Men, Thread of the Real, and The Earth-Boat, and in September 2014 Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper appointed me to a four-year term as Colorado Poet Laureate. I teach for the University of Denver’s University College, where I also direct two graduate degree programs, and live with my wife Melody in the foothills southwest of Denver.
In memory of Michael Nigg,
April 28, 1969 – September 8, 1995
The dream refused me his face.
There was only Mike, turned away;
damp tendrils of hair curled out
from under the ribbed, rolled
brim of a knit ski cap. He’s hiding
the wound, I thought, and my heart
shrank. Then Mike began to talk--
to me, it seemed, though gazing off
at a distant, sunstruck stand of aspen
that blazed against a ragged wall
of pines. His voice flowed like sweet
smoke, or amber Irish whiskey;
or better: a brook littered with colors
torn out of autumn. The syllables
swept by on the surface of his voice--
so many, so swift, I couldn’t catch
their meanings . . . yet struggled not
to interrupt, not to ask or plead--
as though distress would be exactly
the wrong emotion. Then a wind
gusted into the aspen grove, turned
its yellows to a blizzard of sparks.
When the first breath of it touched us,
Mike fell silent. Then he stood. I felt
the dream letting go, and called,
“Don’t!” Mike flung out his arms,
shouted an answer . . . and each word
shimmered like a hammered bell.
(Too soon the dream would take back
all but their resonance.) The wind
surged. Then Mike leaned into it,
slipped away like a wavering flame.
And all at once I noticed the sky:
its sheer, light-scoured immensity;
the lavish tenderness of its blue.
©2015 Joseph Hutchison