Monday Mar 27

GriffithRob Rob Griffith is the author of four collections of poetry: A Matinee in Plato's Cave, winner of the 2009 Best Book of Indiana Award;  Poisoning Caesar; and Necessary Alchemy, winner of Middle Tennessee University’s Chapbook Prize.  His most recent book is The Moon from Every Window (David Robert Books, 2011), and his work has also appeared in magazines and journals such as Poetry, First Things, River Styx, The North American Review, The Sewanee Theological Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Oxford American, among many others. He is the Associate Director of the University of Evansville Press, the Director of the Harlaxton Summer Writing Program, and one of the founding co-editors of Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry.


Your birthday’s come around again, and I
can think of nothing  but those 33s
collecting dust behind the stairs.  Fading,
their cardboard jackets hold a thousand ghosts—
the brooding bands, standing with arms crossed
in front of brick walls or railroad tracks
that needle-off to infinity; moonscapes
in psychedelic reds, blues, and black;
the denim jackets, the moused hair, the scowls,
the desert landscapes.  They wait in the silence cast
by all the years.  And I wish I could rise
above the clouds, above this disc of stars
and dust, and gently lift the needle up
and back.  I’d let it slip into the groove,
that first song yawning out a sunrise,
the vinyl night spinning down to nothing.
And every time, before that last track ends,
I’d lift the needle yet again, content
to hear these same old songs, desperate
to avoid the hiss before it plays, or after.

For my godson, Calum MacLeod, age 1

This summer, cicadas choir in every tree,
a key-shop drone that fills the molten fields
of corn, while your Dad and I drink beer
on the patio and talk about the heat,
the war, the Red Sox.  The house is new, and you
play beneath our table, smeared with sunscreen
and draped in arabesques of light and shadow.
Cicadas climb the nearby goldenrod,
like blood-eyed bullets ticking toward the sun
in slow-motion, and I can’t help but think
that when they come again, you’ll be in college.
I wonder what to tell the future you.
The usual, of course: I wish you health,
success, and happiness.  But we in the past,
we’re always trying to tell you something.
Like people at the station, we wave and shout
as the train pulls away—“Don’t forget
to wear your hat and sweater!  Be safe, call home!”
And as you pick up speed, we turn for our cars
and draw our coats against the cold, hoping
you’ve heard.  Calum, this all goes so fast.

The Mathematician Contemplates
the Nonabelian Tensor Square of
the Free 2-Engel Group of Rank n

Of course.  Equations float like jellyfish
Beneath the surface of his thoughts, cold blooms
Half-seen through the lap and wash of daily life.
He makes a left on Central into green
Cathedrals of oak—cicada thrum
An endless quantum murmur—and hears the swish
Of tires on pavement.  But all he sees
Are fractals, sines, and cosines, those tangled shapes
Beneath the real, unnumbered world.  Unseen
Through tinted glass, he taps the wheel and drapes
His arm across the headrest still perfumed
By his ex-wife’s hair.  He changes the CD
And wonders where she is as sunlight knifes
The clouds in patterns too complex to sum.

Jonathan Edwards and the Wasp

Like cast iron darts fletched with gold,
wasps shred the August air
as they build their paper palace
against the cornice.  From the stairs,
it seems a gibbous moon, pale
and cool, has risen in the house
and changes all our fortunes.
The forenoon wanes.  I think to douse
the whole bedamnéd thing with oil
then watch the roiling flames consume
that tiny heaven.  The wasps,
like rebel angels illumed
by fire, would plunge in sooty streaks
below.  I’d wreak this hell
but for the house that holds
both innocent and infidel.