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.
D E D I C A T I O N S
1. Susan Opton: Soldiers’ Faces
In hair above the forehead
and at his neck, a woman’s hands
touch him and his eyes resist.
And here in series life-size times three,
un-uniformed now, alone, each
with smooth cheek, fragile nose,
with brown eyes or blue eyes
each lays sideways down his head.
Any intimacy disturbs:
whatever done and these eyes seen
and these ears heard. In hair close cut
above the forehead and at his neck,
a woman’s hands touch him,
his mouth closed.
No, no forgiveness. Do not.
2. 18th Surg., Quang Tri Province, 1970
The body's conspiracies make a country,
some hours calm as absence and wait can be,
others a chaos of helicopter rotors,
body parts gone, insides out, blood, new gloves –
that your hands get slippery can kill somebody.
And what you can never do – untangle
the adrenalin and focus, this artery, this
bone, another flat lung. What you can never
learn – who woke, talked again, what you did
right, wrong, those faces, open mouths
no pain, no wish, desperate with thanks.
"One Hundred Views of a Mountain..."
For weeks now every morning I've seen it –
Blencathra's wide bald and brackened dome,
a swath of it sunlit yet at the top cloud-shaded.
The farm backed by dark trees
looks tiny as a thumbnail, dry stone walls
as though with sharpened charcoal drawn
each to contain a slightly different green,
and those clouds leaking blue
a hurry of remnant wool.
To look is to be again inside that wind,
hands holding a lens
inside a stone circle old as Egypt,
place made, each slate and lichened surface
by human decision set deep.
And only when you turn
does Blencathra's height seem then
a lintel over a stone-framed door,
no idea to where.
©2015 Lex Runciman