My collection, William Greenway’s Selected Poems is from FutureCycle Press. Both my tenth and eleventh collections won Ohio Poetry Book of the Year Awards. I have published in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Georgia Review, Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, and Prairie Schooner. I'm Distinguished Professor of English at Youngstown State University.
Men as Trees, Walking
I learned early what that verse
meant, For now we see as through a glass
darkly. My mother wouldn't buy me any
glasses because then I'd be a foureyes,
maybe even play in the band like the rest
of the pansies, or like my father, polishing
his lenses, head bent, hands
before his face as if
praying, no football
hero. Teachers tired of my leaning
in from the front row, chalk dust in
my hair, begged her in notes: like the blind
man in the Bible miracle, he sees men
as trees, and trees as lime
Jell-O. Going out for passes, I was
lost like the end of the world when
everybody running sees the sky but me.
The coach threw his hat in the dust, Son,
have you ever caught a pass? I never
did, but when she gave in, let me have
my specs, it was like heaven, she even more
beautiful with wrinkles, people gross
as bears now limber as hickory, spare
as willows. And the trees, firmed up,
erect at last, were like emerald fish
with each scale whole and succinct,
as if would never ever drop a leaf
or a pass.
He tells me I'm a risk:
he is small, blond, Mississippian. I trust him.
I am fighting my genes, he says, fighting
my father at fifty-two pulling off the highway
that had become a gray blur
trying to call to anyone from a phonebooth
while it broke in his chest, calcified, knobby
like an anklebone
and then again, over and over
in the hospital while doctors
ran up and down the halls trying to stop
that sequence of explosions,
that string of firecrackers.
You see yourself as glass
for the first time, transparent,
shaken and fizzing, and start
watching for potholes.
Or maybe you just learn to live
with a cart with square wheels
thudding in your breast
trying to carry whatever it is
before it's too late.
This is how to become
so that if there come
bombs out of clouds
or lovers into rooms, saying
to cup your hand around it,
as if, in a world of wind
there is this one candle
that must be saved.
©2016 William Greenway