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poemoftheweek poem of the week



James Galvin​


Three Sonnets 


Where I live      distance is the primal fact   

The world is mostly      far away and small

Drifting along through cause and effect      like sleep   

As when the distance      unlikeliest of stems

Bears the unlikely      blossom of the wind   

Engendering our only weather      dry

Except in winter      pine trees live on snow   

So greedy      pulling down these drifts that bury   

The fences snap      the trunks of smaller trees   

If the forest wants      to go somewhere it spreads    

Like a prophecy      its snow before it   

Technology      a distant windy cause   

There is no philosophy      of death where I live   

Only philosophies      of suffering


Hematite Lake


There is another kind of sleep,

We are talking in it now.

As children we walked in it, a mile to school,

And dreamed we dreamed we dreamed.


By way of analogy, consider nightfall.

In relation to the light we have, consider it final.

Still falling from the night before

With ourselves inside it like ore in the igneous dark.


So I went for a walk around Hematite Lake

To watch the small deer they call fallow deer

Dreamed to life by sleeping fields.

Someone had taken the water,


Don't ask me who. The wild swans were

Still there, being beautiful,

And the geese lay down in the grass to sleep.

The shallows, now dry, were peopled with lilies:


Their poor, enormous heads reeled in the aquatic air.

The path was drifted in with gossamer

From the tree-spiders nightly descent:

A monumental feather the geese flew over.


What happens is nothing happens.

What happens is we fall so far

Into a sleep so manifold,

Not even nightfall, whose gold we are, can find us.

      -from X

BIO: James Galvin is the author of several collections of poetry, including Resurrection Update: Collected Poems, 1975-1997 and X (2003); a novel, Fencing the Sky (1999); and The Meadow (1992), a prose meditation on the landscape of the Wyoming-Colorado border and the people who live there.

Galvin's work is infused with the genuine realities of the western landscape, while at the same time not shirking difficult questions of faith, the vicissitudes of life, and shifting intimacies. Poet and critic Mark Tredinnick commented, "All Galvin's writing arises from and expresses a musical engagement with the world." Tredinnick also found Galvin's work to be "profoundly ecological," stating that "[h]is writing, particularly The Meadow, but all of his prose and poetry, starts from the principle . . . that we are the land's, not the other way around." 

Galvin has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation for his poetry. For many years he has been on the permanent faculty at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, spending part of the year in Iowa City, Iowa, and the remainder in Tie Siding, Wyoming, where he grew up and still ranches.

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