Monday Jul 22

HardiinJeff Jeff Hardin is the author of four collections of poems:  Fall SanctuaryNotes for a Praise BookRestoring the Narrative, and Small Revolution.  His poems have appeared in The Hudson ReviewSouthern ReviewPoetry NorthwestNorth American ReviewMid-American ReviewSouthwest Review, and many others.  An editor for the online journal One, he teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN.  Visit his website here.

The Problematic Nature of Time

Good thing I am no historian, for I’d rather trail
a broken stick through creekside leaves and waste
the afternoon
                      than claim this date is crucial to our times.

Some hear the reach of time: it says “Perhaps.” Others
conclude—through famine, prosperity—there is a plan.
But it’s just you and I?
Can I trust you’re worried too?

Beware: you’re being stolen for another’s portrait of himself.
Beware: tomorrow rhymes with something in your past,
though many years will be required
     before it’s clear just what.

Do I diminish or blaspheme to say this stone beside
this fallen tree reminds me—if I withhold my praise—
that everything I see
           is poised to step in for my slack?

I have my lasting questions, though I won’t be sharing them.
I wake some nights: for hours I have helped a dead child’s
    hold a make-shift tent above his footprint in the yard.

Since Possibility is Aesthetically Higher than Reality

If all a young boy wants to do is wander through the yard,
a sketchbook in his hands, let’s let him take all day.
What shame or harm
      can come of his attentiveness?

Question or assertion—either way the words lined up
are just a metaphor for thoughts that can’t be tempted
to remain with us,
      and we’re such careless caretakers anyway.

These poets keep insisting on a single moment,
as though its worth outweighs the others, as though
we get just one
  and not a long succession adding up to more.

It seems we’re always thinking in extremes and opposites
when maybe what consoles is how these tree limbs
reach around the nearest trunk
     and look like an embrace.

What kind of life can creep along not conscious of its end?
Let cool wind remind us May is near. Tell the truth:
is there a joy more lasting
     than a miles-long-look at the sky?

Wondering Aloud

So many conversations in the coffee house
revise the chronicles of History, usurp the headlines,
and chart a course toward mercy
  our country seldom hears.

If you have a soul, some smoldering left inside, maybe
the time has come to bring it words like “and.” Its health
may be determined
         by the poverties it adds to itself.

So many years now I’ve rested on clover beds
but never once forgot myself
  and buried face and arms
to breathe the earth down deep and carry its voice away.

The loveliness of form has brought me back
from who I was, a man itinerant, lulled by memory,
thinking what I’ve lived
       has been the only path.

A woman singing of her restlessness makes room for me
to search that self-same road.
            The moment bears us forth.
We’re holding hands against a coming Inquisition.

That Pitcher on Vermeer’s Table

Not much happens in the time frames I predict.
Off course by ten years or a lifetime I can’t tell.
I offer a clutch of zinnias, withered from all this waiting.

Though not widely known, I’ve drunk for years
from that pitcher Vermeer placed near blue cloth.
Even with eyes closed, I’m conjugating light.

Two ironwood trees lean out from one another,
mates for almost half a century. We’d never tell
their roots from one another, sewn above, sewn below.

The compliments come pouring in, but here’s the truth:
the one who turns his pockets out may be a miser
full of indignation, a mouthpiece for his emptiness.

Why the purple tanager chased in fits and starts
the yellow butterfly I’d be afraid to speculate,
though in my thoughts I’m darting here and there.