Ralph Skip Stevens
If I had to say what kind of poem I like best it would be lyrical, by which I mean song-like. I realize that what sings for me might not be song-like for someone else, so please don’t ask me to define these terms. As a substitute for definition, here are two poems inspired by the idea of lyric as song. Both were originally published in my collection At Bunker Cove, http://www.moonpiepress.com/catalog.php?BookID=96#details. “A World of Singers” was read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac on March 7 of this year.
Lyric, Sometimes Quiet
A song might be no more
than someone’s breath in your ear,
the clinking of a knife
in a jam jar. The fire in the stove
is said to sing, or even the old clock.
That storm last night ripped
a crazy arm from the big maple.
It lies across the driveway
waiting for the saw but
it hummed while yielding to the wind.
Listen, we said
as we lay together in the early hours,
meaning the wind but
it was really the tree that sang
in the quiet violence of air,
which was itself a kind of song
along with all singing things -
sunlight, snow melting on a roof,
the plaster of old walls cracking,
the ploughman in the painting,
dividing the earth without a sound.
A World of Singers
We live in a world of singers
and the song is loud or soft, sweet
or shrill, sometimes silent. But listen.
With a storm approaching someone
shelters a robin’s nest.
Another whistles to a black dog on the beach.
One laughs to herself, reading alone in the kitchen.
In the woodlot someone grunts as he swings the ax.
There’s the sound trees make
after the wind stops and there are those
who look into the eyes of nurses
coming off the night shift,
those greeting the undertaker when he arrives
with his unique instruments.
A man has just argued with his wife.
Now he stands alone on the dark porch,
watching the rain. One hums at the workbench,
carving a delicate bird (last night she
groaned with relief after a phone call).
One sighs as he imagines Odysseus
tied to the mast, and one
looks up when a bell rings
and a customer enters his shop.
One is astonished hearing the fox
bark its own peculiar song and one
just stands on the rocks,
listening to the sea.
©2017 Ralph Skip Stevens
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