poemoftheweek poemoftheweek.com poemoftheweek.org poem of the week

04-16-2012

 

C. G. Hanzlicek

 

At a Lake In Minnesota

 

Walking the shore toward me

Is the farmer from across the road

A man with seven teeth

And forty acres gone to weeds

The bib of his overalls supports

A belly bloated

By pilsner and boiled potatoes

 

Each fifty paces or so 

He baits and sets a steel trap

Tells me he’s after muskrats

Says these days their pelts aint worth

A nickel in a whorehouse

But the varmints ruin

The shoreline with their nests

 

This is a man who owns things

His body his mind

A lake and every foot of its shore

And if a woodpecker 

Breaks through his sleep at dawn

A little jolt of birdshot

Will wipe it away

Clean as a fog of breath 

Leaving his shaving mirror

 

After he’s rounded the point

I get the broom from the cabin

Beginning where he began

I touch the broomstick

To the baited tongue of each trap

A loud clack moves over the water

A satisfying sound

A life saved

A whole shoreline gone to hell

 

Stars

 -It’s been estimated that atoms

 in your body have been through

 several stars—that they were

 ejected many times as gas from

 exploding stars.

           -Jeremiah P. Ostriker

 

Seattle

Chief of the Suquamish and Duwamish

Said when a white man dies

He no longer loved the earth

He wanders among the stars

Shedding his life

Skin by skin

Until theres nothing but a shiver

Of light

 

But when a red man leaves the earth

He never forgets rivers

White with a new year

Deer dancing through scrub oaks

The hawk

Shaking the sky with his shriek

And the man often drifts down

To breathe the air of the living

To touch stone

To touch water

 

Crouched at the firepit

Of an abandoned camp in the hills

With my thumb I polished

The obsidian knife I’d found

Something moved through the pines

Almost like wind.

-from The Cave

BIO: C. G. Hanzlicek received a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1964 and an M.F.A. from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1966. He is the author of eight books of poetry including Living in It, A Dozen for Leah, Mahler: Poems and Etchings, Against Dreaming, and, most recently, The Cave: Selected and New Poems, which appeared in 2001 from University of Pittsburgh Press. He has translated Native American Songs, A Bird’s Companion, and Mirroring: Selected Poems of Vladimir Holan, which won the Robert Payne Award from the Columbia University Translation Center in 1985. His work has appeared in over a dozen anthologies and in many journals, including Poetry, Kenyon Review, Southern Review, North American Review, Hudson Review, and Iowa Review. In the summer of 2001, he retired from California State University, Fresno, where he taught for 35 years and was for most of those years the Director of the Creative Writing Program.