Jerry Harp’s books of poems are Creature (Salt Publishing, 2003), Gatherings (Ashland Poetry Press, 2004), and Urban Flowers, Concrete Plains (Salt Publishing, 2006). With Jan Weissmiller he edited A Poetry Criticism Reader (University of Iowa Press, 2006). His reviews appear in Pleiades. He teaches at Lewis & Clark College.
The Creature Considers Nature
Could be the whole human thing is past,
Something invented for the time.
Phlogiston, scissors, moveable type,
And metaphor—we make do.
I’m waiting to get down human so I
Can amble on from there. O God of machines
And binary switches, turn me on today,
Make me your multiform monkey.
How long can things go on this way?
When I was a child, I drew like a child
And waited for the sun to go down
So I could walk naked into the yard,
Exposing my sex to the stars, which laughed
Their lights down on me in a most
Unnatural fashion. I sought my refuge
With cats in the barn, where I fell asleep
Clutching a rake against my chest.
One morning a fat snake stared me down.
I demurred to answer. The silence was slippery
And slithered away like it had nothing to accuse.
I walked like an absence into the sun.
Lend me a name, would you mind?
Somehow the world keeps slipping away.
Hills and Fields
For once here is adequate pavement,
Macadam not for an age but the time
To jog one foundation to the next,
Breath like a rotating tire.
Anoint me with your sweat,
Queen of the drainage ditch,
Lead me along your breath
Of onions, dirt, and ozone such
As arrives before rain, sparrows
Circling the fields, taking in
What’s left of the light
Before the lightning begins.
A boy in blue whistled and trilled like birds
Before the rains came on
And the trees dripped deciduous paint,
Turning the air green then black and back to green.
Glasses, a shirt from the dryer,
Folded in his loping walk
Late at night along a guard rail,
Gravel, railroad tracks, he was
Archival man. He read decades of macadam,
Centuries of wine and cheesecloth.
Manuscripts dangled above his bed.
Late at night he tapped on the window pane
A code for the insects only.
Demons came to him incarnate as crickets.
He sat for decades on the front stoop
Watching the lightning coming on.