Two Poems by John Blair

John Blair

Old souls mutter the same
sounds they muttered last year 

and every year since there
were sounds to mutter, clink 

and ramble, endless moan
of mix, winds like eyelids 

fluttering open and shut.
At the exquisite edge  

of imagined a kind
of brevity lives,  

looped in eddies and drift
as if there’s only so 

much of itself the world
can take, only so much 

it’s willing to give back
even now, even to you, 

and the rest are just signs
muttering your reasons 

into polished gravel
to roll from where you are 

to compulsion and back
again. All of this wants  

to be more truthful than
it is, blood to bone to 

ear to air to mind to
stone, rubbed relentlessly 

into shine and startle
like fish slick as changes  

of heart inside their wild
panics, faint ripples of  

vanishing in their wakes.


The Taking Tree
John Blair

(with apologies to Shel Silverstein)

Doesn’t care for your gifts
or your attitude frankly
and wonders why you beg
and grovel boy when all
she wants is to be left
the hell alone because
there are no apples here
only thorns and her wood
is her own and she’s just
fine exactly where she
is and the woods are no
place for the faithless likes
of you anyway which
is why they had to put
up that gate to keep you
out and set a bouncer
with a burning, ever-turning
sword to tell you you’re not
welcome in your fig leaves
and weeping wounds. She’s here
for a reason but that
reason isn’t you and
the junk hidden in her
trunk is just squirrels’ nests
and fairy bones and those
birds who loiter love her
in ways you never do
so trust her when she tells
you she has no need for
a needy boy like you.


Author’s Commentary: Like most of what I write, both of these poems come from the intersection of my Christian upbringing and my Buddhist beliefs.  "Mutter" is more or less a rendering in verse of the concept of Saṃsāra--the cycle of death and rebirth in the material world.  "The Taking Tree," on the other hand, turns a parody of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" into an allegory about the Tree of Knowledge in Eden and its role in the mythology of the Fall of Man.

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John Blair has published six books, the most recent of which is Playful Song Called Beautiful (University of Iowa Press, 2016), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize.  He directs the undergraduate creative writing program at Texas State University.