Herbert Woodward Martin

The Physics of Looking

I saw the sunlight renew itself in

the flowers that stretch forth and

speak to those who pass by the thin

horizon that languishes far away.

The horizon is a woman, a fertile bird,

dazzling in flight and breaking into song.

It is the night that always flees before the light.

I have learned to sleep among the anguish of weeds.

The wind worries my soul;

the sun dries my excess blood;

my skin excommunicates pain;

my skeleton is a treasury of longing.

I am a beggar for all creatures;

my brain is the residue of nerves

and electric pulses of thought.

I enrich a few celebratory words.

The sun rests on the dark tree branches

My heart seeks the answers to the physics of love

I am enthralled, like everyone, by the soul of light;

The rough road causes my feet to tremble.

I argue with my pain;

I sculpt all my thoughts;

I take rest from the city landscape;

I need you to love and exult me.

I have a cemetery of friends

Who are asleep, who are dead.

Death is what they most feared;

Nature is what feeds the land.

The rivers are the great sculptor

Water is wet air and light;

Shapes stretch themselves into shadows,

What I love most is the sleep of rest.

I am too old to sing anymore.

I am a miracle of light.

I am the single shadow that widens
I am a sound moving in empty space

I love the skin that covers a woman’s thighs.

I love the golden hair that extends from corn
Its silk is like wave upon wave of wind:

Softness, softness, softness, softness,

My hands are filled with the touch of wind

My hands long to embrace the sunlight

All of my thoughts are acquainted with life

And is aware of only the body breathing.

I am wrapped in the skin of love.

I am aware of words and thoughts;

I am aware of my neighbor’s breathing.

Clouds are nature’s excellent fortune.

The floors of heaven are ceramic blue

The clouds are the gods breathing.

Something, I know not what, sustains me

The road I walk is long and lovely.

Among the trees are seeds of inhibition falling

Among the long wheels of grass tumbling towards

The edges of the earth where the ancients fell.

We went into our houses to save ourselves.

Do you hear the footsteps of the wind?

Are you familiar with the dance of sunlight?

Do you see my image among the shadows?

Who among us is capable of dance and song?

My body no longer celebrates its muscles.

Everything loses its shape and form.

All we dare do is celebrate breath and faults

And learn letter by letter the definition of words

we call the shadows of infusion: night

the morning rays that sweep the earth: day

the night which vanishes into blazes of light

dawn, dawn, dawn, dawn

Herbert Woodward Martin’s tenth collection of poems is forthcoming from Wayne State University Press. For more than thirty years he served as Professor of English and poet-in-residence at the University of Dayton where he taught creative writing and African-American literature. He has also taught at Aquinas College. He has been a Fulbright Scholarship Fellow to Pecs, Hungary. He has devoted some three decades to reading and editing the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a Dayton native, to a worldwide audience. For his scholarship he has been awarded four Honorary Doctorates.



Current Issue
Contributors' Notes

Email this poem Printer friendly page

A CLOSER LOOK: Patricia Fargnoli

Indran Amirthanayagam

Bruce Bennett

Daniel Bourne

David Danoff

Gary Fincke

Michael Gessner

Will Greenway

Edison Jennings

Chris Llewellyn

Mary Lee

Hailey Leithauser

Herbert Woodward Martin

E.K. Steelwater

Tim Suermondt

Adam Tavel














Last Updated: Mar 10, 2021 - 2:35:35 PM

Copyright 2005 - 2021 Cook Communication.