Tuesday Apr 23

ManingMaurice creditSteveCody Maurice Manning, a former Guggenheim fellow and Pulitzer prize finalist, lives with his family on a small farm in Kentucky.  He teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.  His next book, Railsplitter, will be published in the fall.

I Am Going into the Night to Find a World of My Own
Love is something to do, like an art,
you practice it with hope and see,
eventually, the beginning of love
begins in a mist, and even before
the mist, in the world and also beyond
the world—in the heavens if you like,
on God’s front porch, one night
in eternity when God was there
silently rocking in his chair
and he said it, I am the God of love.
And just like that, like light and dark,
the thing we spend our lives trying
to do and often falling short
entered the world on the other side
of the misty mist. Voila! Ta da!
Thank you, America!—That’s funny,
God is not an American.
God is God, the God of love,
maker of silent trees and rivers,
and trees and rivers eventually
appear in poems, like that, and that.
It just keeps going. Let us love
each other, let us go alone
into our own mysterious night
and be there as long as it takes to find
the world and bring love back.
A Genuine Davy Crocket Coonskin Cap
Somewhere in there, in the early years,
it was important for me to get
to Tennessee, where I knew I could
acquire for my adventuring mind
a symbol of my desire for adventure
and my wilderness imaginings—
a symbol I thought would make them true,
a genuine Davy Crocket
Coonskin Cap. I was enthralled
by the history and what is now
regarded as a myth. So be it.
It mattered to the boy I was.
I didn’t know the cap was made
of rabbit fur or the tail was fake.

That was another sign of not
doing something right, to read
with your finger following along,
and worse to read the passage out loud.
We weren’t supposed to hear the words
or feel them coming out of our mouths—
if we read like that we were using a crutch.
I used to imagine a face behind
my eyes and there I could see a mouth
pronouncing the words and it made a voice
I could listen to. That’s how I read.
And we weren’t supposed to count on our fingers
so I hid my hands in my lap and tapped
on my thighs or the underside of the desk
as if I were playing an instrument,
but I was counting, carrying over
the tens from the column of ones, or when
I needed to add another 8
to 64 I’d tap it out
because I could only go so far
doing my times from memory.
There was something wrong if you used your fingers
to count and most of the children I knew
who did learned either to hide it or
eventually how to stop counting.

Photo credit: Steve Cody