And so this gray whispering
to the grass, whispering to the dried
creek bed where mud waits hard
as stone. And then the moon that lingers
like smoke amid the hickories, the way
a month or year is torn from the body.
While from his bedroom window,
he sees the railroad tracks stretching
out like parables: some narrow path
that constricts and holds him in
its grasp. In the end, he knows, it all
comes down to ghosts: the sun too weary
to lift itself into the world, the trees
exhausted in their dim cloak, brooding.
And what about the damage of rising
each morning from your bed, dressing,
washing your face, stepping out
into the day? The years jackknifing
round you like a semi on Old State
Route 17, calling to you like crows
hidden in the fields. And now
this scalpel of the sun making
its first shallow cut into the earth.
Doug Ramspeck received the 2010 Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize for
Mechanical Fireflies, which will be published in 2011. His first book, Black
Tupelo Country, received the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and is published
by BkMk Press. A third book. Possum Nocturne, is published by NorthShore
Press. His poems have been accepted by journals that include The Kenyon
Review, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. He is the recipient of an Ohio Arts
Council Individual Excellence Award. He directs the Writing Center and
teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima. He lives in
Lima with his wife, Beth, and their daughter, Lee.
About his poems: The writing methods I used for “Exhausted Morning,” “The
Old Myths,” and “The Smallness of Desire” were all the same. For many
years I suffered from severe writer’s block as a fiction writer, and so, when
I switched to writing poetry in 2004, I was determined to find ways to
avoid that crippling and critical voice in my head that made it impossible
to complete more than a page or two of prose without giving up in despair.
There are many approaches I have tried in recent years, but for this particular
set of poems I opened a file called “generating” (you are not writing poems,
I tell myself, just listening to your own random thoughts) and composed
as rapidly as possible, questioning and censoring nothing, jotting down
whatever words flashed into my head and for whatever reason, until I had
filled many pages. Only then did I imagine myself as a scavenger, maybe one
of the crows I so often write about, sorting through the woods and fields
until something caught my eye, some trinket of language or maybe a few
stray lines to carry off.