Four Poems, by Doug Sutton-Ramspeck.
Waiting for Death
I think it started on one of those hard
pew-like benches, maybe in a train station.
Everyone walking past had loud shoes.
For a time I tried seeing life as a slow barge
easing toward a dock, but then I had my wisdom
teeth removed, and I began reading Rilke,
and I understood then that insomnia was overrated.
There were times when I pictured the sun
as a Great Celestial Chew Toy, and all I wanted
was to chase it, to grip it in my lexical jaws,
to make it squeal. All philosophy, I understood by then,
was an unread letter to the editor, an iron box
so heavy when you lifted it you were convinced
that something lay inside. I was an acrobat
performing feats for my amusement,
but then the sleepwalkers began weeding
my tomato plants at night, and cylindrical trains
rumbled past like great beasts beyond
the ridge. I wasn't waiting the way
you hold out your hand and ask the moon
to dance; I was waiting the way a fog horn
announces something mournful in the distance—
out there on the gray oatmeal water—
and you can't help but turn to listen.
Let's say A has a crush on B and B is duet and C is an empty cabin in the woods where you are pissing drunk off the back porch with a stream so voluminous it makes celestial music against the buttonbushes. Or let's say blood is seeping into your mouth from your broken teeth and your ribs ache and your skull throbs like a kazoo and at once a train is traveling with thunderous insistence down a track in the distance where you can't see it but where somehow you imagine yourself standing,
standing there with your hands in your pockets while the great beast is rushing toward you in the black night.
Or let's say a woman you are in love with lifts her hands to touch your face and at once you remember she is there, there beneath you, there because you must have forgotten, and the feeling of her hands on your cheeks is like the feeling of an overpass or a crushed moon or the strange strangled sound of a
The self-reflexive sky
is awake again
as something rising
out of a dead sleep
beyond the river.
The way light insists
on hollowing forever
The way a swollen moon
reflects itself in sluggish water
as we walk along
the dark verge of tupelos.
Here are the bones
beneath our fingers
as we raise them
to the moonlight.
Here: the flesh remembers.
Notes from the Drunk's Brother
In raw morning this whitened ground glows
otherworldly as a spine of bones.
And yet we are children once again.
Here is the geological slowness.
The dead know
to inhabit the dark spaces.
The dead know to be unearthed.
Like the raccoon we found once in a drift
by Bowman's River at winter's end.
Or our father unconscious
in the soybean field at dusk.
But mainly it's the small and glacial explosion
of the years. While this white
earth rolls out beyond the fences.
Doug Sutton-Ramspeck says: My poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, was selected for the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and will be published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City) in the fall of 2008. Several hundred poems of mine have appeared in journals that include West Branch, Rattle, Confrontation Magazine, Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Hunger Mountain, and Seneca Review.
I direct the Writing Center and teach creative writing and composition at The Ohio State University at Lima. I live in Lima with my wife, Beth, and our daughter, Lee.
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