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Bruce Guernsey




For a door

the eye of a telescope.


the infinite galaxies of snow,

cinders for stars.


In this roundness

the dog alone 

circling his spot

can sleep.

The rest of us?—


searching for corners.


The only window,

a hole for fire.

The startled explorers,

their tracks

filling with snow,

seeing the smoke.


Those shadows on the wall

bending over the flame,

that flickering of hands

on the endless wall.


their lips are moving

but not a word.


Ice Storm


To go to bed one April night,

a halo around the moon,

to sleep for hours it seems,

so soundly

you never heard the sleet—


to waken so suddenly old,

all that green gone white,

the orchard creaking,

its branches brittle as ribs—


to squint at the light with milky eyes,


the great-grandchildren gathered near,  

all staring, all frightened—


to point towards the window,

someone wetting your lips—


to try to tell them.


Ice Fishing


When the doctor beams his line of light

in the water of your eye,

can he see the stars, the glisten of your tears?


I pull a bluegill from the dark,

its belly pink, the winter moon.

On the ice, it flops just once.


The eye of a fish is flat

for seeing under water.  Out here, in air,

nothing it sees has depth.


Summers, the pond a sky,

you can’t see in because of the light.

All you see is sky.


This afternoon it’s ten below,

the land, the ice I fish through, white.

I stare in the hole, jigging the line.


-from New England Primer

BIO: Bruce Guernsey is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University where he taught creative writing and American Literature for twenty-five years. He has also taught at William and Mary, Johns Hopkins, the University of New Hampshire, and Virginia Wesleyan College where he was the poet in residence for four years. A graduate with honors from Colgate University, he holds M.A.'s from the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins and a PhD from New Hampshire, writing his dissertation on tools as metaphor in Robert Frost's poetry.

Bruce's poems have appeared in well-known publications such as Poetry, The Atlantic, American Scholar, and many of the quarterlies. His work has also appeared in more diverse places like Cat Fancy, The Journal of Medical Opinion, and Yankee. His books of poetry include Lost Wealth (Basilisk Press, 1974), January Thaw (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1982), The Lost Brigade (Water Press and Media, 2004), and New England Primer (Cherry Grove Collections, 2008). He has also published seven chapbooks. He has been honored with fellowships in writing from the NEA, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Three of his poems have been featured in Ted Kooser's “American Life in Poetry,” and another will be appearing in 2011. In 2006, Bruce was invited to edit The Spoon River Poetry Review through the winter/spring issue of 2010. The magazine received an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award for both 2008 and 2009.

His prose has also found publication in a variety of magazines, including War, Literature, and the Arts, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Fly Rod & Reel. His essay, "The Raven's Gift," won the creative nonfiction award from the journal, Flyway. The recipient of Fulbright Lectureships to Portugal and Greece, Bruce has twice sailed around the world with Semester at Sea.

For his teaching, Dr. G. was awarded seven faculty excellence awards while at EIU, and in 1992 was awarded the State of Illinois Board of Governors' Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor offered in that state system. He was also twice nominated for the Carnegie Institute United States Professor of the Year.

He and his wife, the artist and jeweler Victoria Woollen-Danner, divide their time between Charleston, Illinois and their new home in Bethel, Maine. Together, they have five children and two granddaughters, plus a Gordon setter named Yaz and a big-fat cat known as Boggs. All in the family are long-suffering Boston Red Sox fans.

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