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Fall 2002, Volume 20.1

Poetry

 

Dennis Held

Dennis Held teaches at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where he is faculty advisor to the Talking River Review. His poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Seattle Review, and Poetry magazine. His first book of poems, Betting on the Night, was recently published by Lost Horse Press.

 

Relics

If I could stand here
           long enough I'd see
                     them move:
mountains on their way
           from Idaho to
                     hell and gone.
Instead I'm rooted
           with a new friend
                     on a stable hillside
at the very moment
           the rock is split
                     and a leaf
from sixty million years
           gone by first
                     hits the sun again.

Or maybe what's worthy
           of note is Bill
                     who loves these
rocks like Dante
           had it for Beatrice
                     only better, with dirt.
And if I call to him
           he will with ardor
                     say Miocene Epoch!
and Neogene Period! and
           tell of inland seas
                      laid down between
volcanic waves.
           A stone is feathered
                      with pine needles.
He opens his mouth
           And the whole wide-
                      awake dream whirls out
and I'm opened up
           inside his world
                      of luminous fish
and ginko trees, Idaho
           hot as any Jamaica,
                      palm fronds ablossom
all around us,
           standing muddied
                      and incarnate:
Bill, a young father,
           bearded and grinning
                      helping me hear
what the split rock says.

This River's Part

As now, each evening brings a last embarrassment
Of light that shames the setting sun to drop its fan,
A tawdry final display. But as the darkness
Sways its daily way, up from deepest holes within
The earth, the loving men of Myrtle rise to give
Their wives the few remaining sparks that nothing
Else can draw from those who live in shaded valleys
Along the Clearwater River, racketing down a pocket
Of rock, applauding itself through shallow rapids.

And where a muscled swimmer barrels into slower
Pools, old basalt can trick the undercurrent and legs
Are turned to stone. Wraiths that might be geese
Conspire the body down to where the dregs of those
Who doubt the influence of birds lie tangled deep
In shrouds of cottonwood. No matter how or where
It stops, flesh is never far from where it starts.

 

Life in the Middle World

Between this sky and that ground,
            Firmament and fundament

Forty long years
            An eyeblink

After the conception, before the execution
            After Genesis, before Revelations

While I'm sitting here waiting
            For the coffee to kick in

In blinding light and utter darkness
            Part agony, part ecstasy

At the gates of heaven
            By the writhing lake of fire

Right there on the brink
            Of the next important moment

Fireflicker
            Seedhusk

Twixt hither
            And yon

Always poised between who
            I was and who I will be

I am something
            I am nowhere

But always I am near

 

Captives

It seemed like there should have been something we
Could do for those filthy March Wisconsin
Cows when the frozen pastures seethed in
Hock-deep muck, ice encrusted at six a.m.,

Already hooked to machines and milked
Poor girls, now puffing their slow way down, always
Down from the warm barn, lit as from within
By a wayward vernal sun that offers

Not one degree of heat as we slide
Past, day after mystifying day on the swaying
Seats of a school bus carving its way, isolate,
Down Town Line Road, toward every day's

Argument with itself, nothing helpful shown
On the drive through the flame of each icy dawn.

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