Tom Holmes

For Ruth Foley

I’ve seen it twice before. The first, one spring, 
its sudden winds erased the daylit sky, 
and reinscribed with cold and larkspur blue. 
The second time occurred in middle June – 
the sea’s horizon ebbed instead of rose, 
and merchant ships returning home sailed off
their maps. Trade winds sank and water dried to land. 
Today I stare long into the east. 
I hold my saxophone across the wind
and listen hard for changes in earth’s pitch. 
I have my armor and butterfly net. 
The night will not surprise this time, I have
apologies to write and shadows to defend.  

Author's Commentary: In May 2015, I wrote a Facebook post that read, “Give me four words, and I'll write you an unrhymed sonnet . . . or maybe a non-sonnet poem. Please, no proper nouns. Nouns and verbs preferred. . . . I'll try. Hopefully, I get to them all. . . . Hopefully, by summer's end.” Ruth Foley gave me these four words: “saxophone,” “merchant,” “swallow,” and “larkspur.” “Swallow” doesn’t appear in this version of the poem, but it appeared in the original title, “Swallowing Pride.” This poem is part of a series of poems about the media of writing and medieval map making, among other things.

Tom Holmes is the editor of Redactions: Poetry & Poetics and the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently The Cave (winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013), as well as four chapbooks. His writings about wine, poetry book reviews, and poetry can be found at his blog, The Line Break: Twitter: @TheLineBreak