Monday, March 30, 2015

Poems by Jim Harrison



From his book, Songs of Unreason




American Sermon


I am uniquely privileged to be alive
or so they say. I have asked others
who are unsure, especially the man with three
kids who’s being foreclosed next month.
One daughter says she isn’t leaving the farm,
they can pry her out with tractor
and chain. Mother needs heart surgery
but there is no insurance. A lifetime of cooking
with pork fat. My friend Sam has made
five hundred bucks in 40 years
of writing poetry. He has applied for 120
grants but so have 50,000 others. Sam keeps
strict track. The fact is he’s not very good.
Back to the girl on the farm. She’s been
keeping records of all the wildflowers
on the never-tilled land down the road,
a 40-acre clearing where they’ve bloomed
since the glaciers. She picks wild strawberries
with a young female bear who eats them. She’s being
taken from the eastern Upper Peninsula down
to Lansing where Dad has a job in a
bottling plant. She won’t survive the move.




Dan’s Bugs


I felt a little bad about the nasty earwig
that drowned in my nighttime glass of water,
lying prone at the bottom like a shipwrecked mariner.
There was guilt about the moth who died
when she showered with me, possibly a female.
They communicate through wing vibrations.
I was careful when sticking a letter
in our rural mailbox, waiting for a fly to escape,
not wanting her to be trapped there in the darkness.
Out here in the country many insects invade our lives
and many die in my nightcap, floating and deranged.
On the way to town to buy wine and a chicken
I stopped from 70 mph to pick up
a wounded dragonfly fluttering on the yellow line.
I’ve read that some insects live only for minutes,
as we do in our implacable geologic time.




Brutish


The man eating lamb’s tongue salad
rarely thinks of the lamb.
The oral surgeon jerking twenty teeth out
in a day still makes marinara sauce.
The German sorting baby shoes at Treblinka
writes his wife and children frequently.
The woman loves her husband, drops two kids
at day care, makes passionate love
to an old boyfriend at the Best Western.
We are parts. What part are you now?
The shit of the world has to be taken
care of every day. You have to choose
your part after you take care of the shit.
I’ve chosen birds and fish, the creatures
whose logic I wish to learn and live.




Doors


I’m trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You’re inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We’ve been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren’t doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.




From Songs of Unreason


When young I read that during the Philippine War
we shot six hundred Indians in a wide pit. It didn’t seem fair.
During my entire life I’ve been helpless
in this matter. I even dream about it.


***


In summer I walk the dogs at dawn
before the rattlesnakes awake. In cold weather
I walk the dogs at dawn out of habit.
In the pastures we find many oval deer beds
of crushed grass. Their bodies are their homes.


***


I left this mangy little
three-legged bear two big fish
on a stump. He ate them at night
and at dawn slept like a god
leaning against the stump
in a chorus of birds.


***


The fly on the window is not a distant crow
in the sky. We’re forced into these decisions.
People are forever marrying the wrong people
and the children of the world suffer.
Their dreams hang in the skies out of reach.