Scott Owens


At two you already love a party.
I watch you running around in the dark,
in a field near Jacob's Fork, playing
a game whose name you can barely pronounce.

Just this morning, rising early,
we went walking and you were amazed again
at October's sky, the three stars
still seeming new to you each time

we came from under a tree, shouting
there are some more stars, worlds
enough unfolding to keep you
in a constant state of wonder.


Today would be called Cleaning Up,
yesterday, Setting Up, the occasion
as simple as the annual cooling
of weather, reclamation of the backyard.

The day I trimmed the eucalyptus.
The day we drank red wine, packing boxes,
and I made a pass beginning with
"What would you do." Frost’s couple
at the brook deciding the meaning of the day.

They populate our lives, providing
focus, definition, memory.
Days are easily forgotten without them,
each one only a number,
a continuation of the one before,
a routine completion of duties.

Where they don't occur we busy ourselves
with making them up, counting hawks,
sleeping on the beach, sitting up late
to watch meteors, putting up the new bed,
picking flowers along the parkway.

I mark my daughter's life with them,
first steps, words, teeth, the day
the baby gate came down, the day
she moved to the big girl bed,
her first unprompted, "I love you, Daddy"
A life made up of small occasions
would not be so bad.


Not a true red, components of pink,
orange, yellow, even green.
You can't compare it to blood though that's
what you want to do, to talk of stains
left on fingers, hands, clothes,
splattered across the sink and counter.
Out, damned tomato! Out of this skin
that scalds as if the splash of boiling water
weren't enough. Oh, the drama of it,
squeezing seeds from bloody heads
of tomatoes, the burn and sting
redeemed months later when the taste
of ripe tomatoes is gone from the garden
but kept fresh in iconic jars.


On a morning when even getting dressed
takes forever, when anxieties bend
like knuckles beneath your skin, you know
you'll never change the world, become
the great poet, teach anyone
anything, your best success is simply
not hitting your three-year-old daughter,
not becoming your father or his.

Days like these, nothing satisfies,
everything annoys and hurts from the inside
like knees after standing too long,
and then, out of nowhere she says,
"Daddy, you're the best," and you know
for a moment it will always be enough.


You know it can be terrible
here, what with bombs
and Norman and children dying,
and just the idea of
cockroaches outliving us all.

You've lost your faith in goodness,
and the leap, you say, could be
that leap is also a leap of faith
that things will be better
somewhere else, life
without pain or loss,
rest, sleep.

But in sleep there are dreams,
and in dreams there are nightmares,
and no one can really know.
There may be nothing. There may
be Dante with his black book
and implacable rings.
There may be less.

Here at least there is ice cream
and poetry, there are flowers
and the ever-opening sky,
there are faces and the occasional laugh,
there is gravity and the still
certain orbit of moons.

Graduate of the UNCG MFA program, co-editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, and author of "Musings," a weekly poetry column in Outlook, Scott Owens is the 2008 Visiting Writer at Catawba Valley Community College.  His first full-length collection of poetry, The Fractured World was published in August by Main Street Rag. He is also author of three chapbooks The Persistence of Faith (Sandstone Press, 1993), Deceptively Like a Sound (Dead Mule, 2008), and The Book of Days (Dead Mule, 2009).   He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net Prize this year.  His poem, "On the Days I Am Not My Father," was recently featured on Garrison Keillor’s NPR show The Writer’s Almanac. Born in Greenwood, SC, he now lives in Hickory, NC, where he teaches and coordinates the Poetry Hickory reading series.



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