April Poetry Month (Day 22): B. J. Best #wppoets #npm15

[April Poetry Month 2015 Table of Contents]

Best author photo

B. J. Best is the author of three books:  State Sonnets (sunnyoutside, 2009), Birds of Wisconsin (New Rivers Press, 2010), and But Our Princess Is in Another Castle(Rose Metal Press, 2013).  I got off the train at Ash Lake, a verse novella set in Wisconsin, is forthcoming from sunnyoutside later this year.  He teaches at Carroll University in Waukesha and lives in West Bend.


from Yes (Madison: Parallel Press, 2014)


sandhill cranes

they stand like chessmen in the field
shorn down to stubble, and soon they will slide
across the troubled checkerboard of october:

early frosts slashed through by night.
they are gray and austere as dolphins
etched onto the lid of a coffin, as a tin bucket

filling with a truckload of snow.
this pair of downy candleholders, it is said
they mate for life, relighting their red crowns

again and again.  it’s true:  my wife
and i made our moves long ago:  queen
to knight, cheek to chest, bird to bee.

now, when i stand cooking eggs
in the rookery of our kitchen, or i’m there
reading field guides in the rocking chair,

sometimes i feel grace sweep my neck
like a feather.  i expect her to be behind me,
but no:  she’s ironing, the fat silver tongue

grooming her clothes like a cat,
while she hums songs she’s made up
about mothers, flying, the weather.

a coin collection

in 1858, an eagle flew through the copper sky
of autumn, and just hung there:  until
it was pressed into a blue album,
a photograph of a year i know nothing about—

except compromise, maybe, liberty and cotton,
or the way i forget my wife’s sadness:
each period is another vanished child.
these shoeboxes of coins—cracking barges of ore—

were given to me by my grandfather as easily
as an old deck of cards, a jangling solitaire
he couldn’t win.  by then, he collected
almost anything:  string, stamps, scrap wood,

antique tools clenched with rust that would never
hug another bolt, kiss another screw.
i must have been nine then, my cursive—
nickels needed—blooming in unsteady petals,

my lists austere graveyards of dates.
that summer, my fingers were sour with silver,
waving a magnifier like a lollipop of light.
eventually, he died.  eventually, the coins

became uncirculated for more than twenty years.
still, they seem like good things to teach
a son: steel cent, carson city, seated liberty,
very good barber head dime.  then, when he tires,

say, these coins are worthless, unlike wisdom,
and leave it at that—:  and watch
how he spends his care, his money, his time.



when she asks me if i believe in god, i say
yes.  when she calls me a liar, i say yes.
i’ve been trying to say yes to most things lately:
another beer; a broom that wants to kiss
the floor, coughing its tempests of dust;
the winter light that comes in all slanty;
the old pear of my guitar which i play
so poorly it scares the cats.  watch tv?
yes.  an antique tin with a golden woman,
fan, kimono?  heavens, yes.  waiting five minutes
until the taco shells are ready, hot little envelopes
of corn?  yes, yes, yes.  when she asks me
if i want to see her tanning-bed sunburn,
i say yes, and suddenly the seven inches of snow
to which i said yes are erased
by a parliament of cardinals calling yes from the pines.


[April Poetry Month 2015 Table of Contents]


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