I live in Norwalk, Connecticut, with my wife, fellow poet Laurel Peterson, and I am a Professor of English at Manhattanville College. I received my A.B. in History from Stanford University and my Ph.D. in English from the University of North Carolina. I have published a book of poems, Shiva Dancing (Texture Press, 2007)), a chapbook, Between What Is and What Is Not (The Last Automat Press, 2010), and individual poems in various journals.
The sermon was about hens folding chicks
beneath their wings, protecting their brood from
a cloven-hooved fox who prowled craftily
within the smiles of richly robed Pharisees.
The censer flooded the nave with smoke that
climbed the shafts of light in spreading feathers
of red and blue and gold. The priest
opened his arms to form a cross,
let fall a downy white surplice, linen
and silk, and beckoned, while grim-faced deacons
beat the pews for timid parishioners,
my wife among them, who fled to the altar,
took bread and wine where the thick stone wings
of the transept embraced the huddled flock.
I hung back, left behind,
scanning the nave for the fox.
Walking the Lane in Late December
The stream complains from the ravine’s
deep hollow, swollen eddies and whorls,
Stravinsky score of quavers and clefs,
at its heavy freight of frost compressed,
convulsed, breaking free to tumble toward the sea.
Houseguests saunter up ahead, arms loose
as summer, swinging to some sweet melody,
Mozart or Scott Joplin, eyes adrift on the cloudless sky,
dazzled out of time by the bright white
magic of the day swirling into improvisation.
I linger behind, plant each boot into winter,
head bent, finding familiar frets in the path,
holding my arms close, seeking my center.
I lower my body’s weight onto the full of my feet,
careful not to skid, not to rush the tempo,
not to land off balance onto the thick slick
ice beneath the freshly fallen snow.
Above, a gray brown thatch of maple and beech
stripped clean of green inscribes a tangled staff
against the sun. A hawk floats on the breeze,
in tune with the season and hungry.
A muffled crack sings across the snow,
distant branch, hunter’s rifle, a bone, or
the conductor’s baton impatient
at our failure to read his score.
One of my friends has gone down. Nothing broken
except the illusion of the snow’s soft fluff.
Where his fall has swept the ice clean,
an opaque mirror stares up like zinc or tarnished
silver or the flat gray eye of the hawk,
his hood removed,
somber as Brahms,
dark as eternity.
©2015 Van Hartmann