When I think of debts (other than those to family), I think first of libraries and librarians – God bless them every one. A college professor for more than 30 years, I taught first at Oregon State and since 1992 at Linfield College. Five books of poems carry my name on their spines, including an Oregon Book Award winner (1989) and the most recent two from Jessie Lendennie’s Salmon Poetry, which, delightfully, has a mailing address without a single number in it.
Sun down after a long day of sun,
eastern stars come on, but not like lights
—you never see the moment.
I remember in another time and place
a neighbor dead now asked a young boy
at about this same hour and time of year
What do you see? The boy frowned.
Nothing. Stars counting as nothing—
too many, some with colors,
no one of them the same brightness or place.
I was sitting on lawn in front of our house.
He had walked out his garage next door.
What do you see?
I see a man with baggy eyes, thin hair,
a kind face I summon now.
What do you see, he asked me.
I didn’t say energy or mystery,
a distance untravelable, light years.
I’d not yet seen Saturn in a telescope’s eye:
it looked like a hat for an utterly round head,
an odd hat resting on a brim.
What do you see? Night. A quiet street.
Mr. Mitchell and his wife, childless,
the two of them their own company.
“August Night” is reprinted from One Hour That Morning & Other Poems, published in 2014 by Salmon Poetry (Ireland).
©2015 Lex Runciman