Rod Jellema



WINTER LIGHTNING

Washington streets these winter nights are cats,
dozing, one eye half open, watching for storms
while we citizens, deep in the certainty that lightning
never strikes until spring,  are asleep.
But it strikes.  It ripped into my dream one night
not as a jagged white spear but as sound,
a shriek as through homespun worsted,
shearing through a candle-lit room at the rear
of some foreign tailor shop, hunchbacked,
that I was peering into in my sleep.
That was a good year for making poems.

This stranger that wakes me as winter lightning
has other guises. It first came as the tall
and terrible angel who said to the child I was,
fear not. Twice in the decades after that, it threatened 
chaos and death to what I tried to hold onto.
But now, an old man startled by late-in-life love,
I close my eyes to find it lighting up the soft dark
of this new millennium's dance of galaxies,
each one new, each a spark in a cat's eye nebula,
each spark tight with millions of spinning worlds.
This is a good year to rest, to be still.


THE HINGE
        
Down the pre-dawn road that drops west from his house
to his writing shack, we'd have seen very little,
so only imagine this poet squared off at his desk,
nudging his pencil to catch the curves of the earth’s lines
darkly falling away while we were hanging onto
the arcs of our own little sleeps. As one by one
the lights of barns flicked on all along the valley,
the yellow circle of his lamplight, near the old pump,
must have spread, faded to white, and then snapped off,

and it's seven now and we are up.  We watch
from the kitchen window.  His thermos,
a blue-flame flash, swings as he unbends
lightly toward eastern light, growing back his size.
He swaggers a little like a smithy who's forged
and polished the perfect hinge, who wears sparks
newly dead that his clothes now remember as smoke. 
Full height now, he vaguely returns our waves,

but mostly he slows his step to note how the plants
that Sue had set out in April are beginning
to ignite tomatoes, green turning pink, and that Sheba
barked once and is running to meet him halfway.


THICK LENSES

Dimming down, their wicks sputtering low,
how eager the eyes of the octogenarians
to crack open the layer of tissue
thickening over a printed page or over
a painted landscape, how they wish
to brush aside slight snows
out the frosted window,
to dab color into fading faces,
and like Milton to stare
with  clean recognition
into worlds they may never yet have seen.

for Tom Harper



Rod Jellema, long associated with the University of Maryland and with the Writer's Center (Bethesda, MD), won the Towson University Prize for Literature with his last book of poems, A Slender Grace. His Incarnality: The Collected Poems, with a CD of his readings of many of them, is scheduled for publication on October 1, 2010.








                                    

 

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