Poems by Daniel Lusk
Daniel Lusk is author of six poetry collections and other books, among them The Shower Scene from Hamlet, The Vermeer Suite, and a memoir, Girls I Never Married. His work has appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, North American Review, Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, The Southern Poetry Review, American Poetry Review, Markings (Scotland), Salamander, Nimrod International, and many other journals. His genre-bending essay “Bomb” (New Letters) earned a Pushcart Prize in 2016. Well-known for his teaching, Daniel has been a Visiting Poet at The Frost Place (Franconia, NH), Eigse Carlow Arts Festival (Ireland), and Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA), and a Resident Fellow at Stranmillis University College-Queens (Belfast, N.I.), Yaddo (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), and The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, N.H.). He is a Senior Lecturer of English Emeritus at the University of Vermont.
On Goose Pond
—after a photograph by Carolyn Bates
What bird is singing on Goose Pond
this early day of cricket din
and tree frog choir?
Now and again goose-in-residence
will snore, breaking her fast
and maybe then what troubles a distant loon
to sing the blues it seems.
This red, not blood on the water but
a bruised reflection of some far-off wound;
that’s the way it would appear—
anger heart-sore fire-in-a-bottle blown.
And, here, sweet peace for us, the mirror
of whatever blow has creased
the fabric of our brother world
a shimmering silence. Now and again a bird.
These murmurs on our ear
of cricket, frog, and goose
mere fractals of soul-shattering sounds
we might catch wind of late
tomorrow, loves. Be safe. Be kind.
In My Home Town
She sits on the curbstone,
picking a scab on her knee.
The boys are watching haircuts
through the window of the barber’s
caravan and pay her no mind.
At the corner drug store teens
sit on the steps out front, sipping fizzy
cream sodas and cherry cokes.
Now and again a matronly Buick
or austere Lincoln Continental ghosts by
like a premonition of time to come.
Coach says we are better
now the season is over. If only.
In the sound booth at the record store
Chet Baker plays “Every Time
We Say Goodbye.” After the last plaint
of the boozy trumpet, a little riff of silence…
like the purple aura of our mother’s arms
as she tells us about a prayer circle
around a neighbor’s sickbed.
In my home town, life in a minor key.
Barefoot, wading where the river
laps and eddies, where summer cows
come to drink, a boy
dabbling in shallows
to see what I might see—
a clam, embedded in sand,
itself delving or luxuriating it seemed,
shell excoriated, hard as shale
or horse’s hoof, or blind church door.
Did not part to lick its lips, did not sing
to me as I naïve expected
and might have done, am not past doing
at any command now, whisper
at the ear in French s’il vous plait, kiss
on the eyelids or behind the knee.
Tried to guess the spell or charm
who could not imagine soul or pearl
or salt viscosity within the stolid lips
of that hard reticule. Who had not art
to evoke or feel the chuckle and moan
of pleasure known since books
were slabs of clay and papyrus rolls
or knew what claim of sanctuary
may keep away the human clamor,
disguise the clap and swerve
of true religion at play inside.
What if soul is the fairy ping
inside a spent light bulb?
In the lagoon of a forest bromeliad
a frog so small it could not
find itself in the class picture.
How were we children to know
the Ark of the Covenant
was not a boat?
Don’t give up on the ridiculous.
The figures round the cathedral door:
lambs and bunnies at the bottom
made the children smile.
Ogres and fornicating humans
caused adults to swallow hard
and duck inside.
Sleep like lake water,
lapping but won’t come over me.
Staring into the dark, I am
shadow-boxing with my past selves.
So many kinds of fool.
—for J.F. (1937-2016)
The roof has come off the church
and rain is falling in the baptistry.
The metaphorical sheep of the Testament
graze the green sanctuary
and swallows whisper over the grass.
Across the way a vault of sycamores
behind a scrim of hurried lace, garment
of one who will not come out
from under the stone.
And look! The sudden sunshine
where we walked among roses and aquilegia.
Butterflies and lilies, too,
languid on the frog pond. A hymn
to summer everlasting.
Anon, I will take my turn at the garden gate,
holding the white end of the golden thread.
But now, too long away to weep,
to grieve my friend,
I watch the rain, the baptistry, the holy sheep.
And do what I have been given to do.