Sunday Nov 19

HartmannVan Van Hartmann teaches English at Manhattanville College. His poetry has appeared in numerous journals. His first book of poems, Shiva Dancing (Texture Press), was published in 2007, followed by a chapbook, Between What Is and What Is Not (The Last Automat Press, 2010). A new book of poems, Riptide (Texture Press), is scheduled to be published in Spring, 2016. He lives in Norwalk, Connecticut, and Peru, Vermont, with his wife, fellow writer and English professor Laurel Peterson.
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Copperheads



Summer came late,
spring spilling down
the length of June,
little waves of green run wild,
pooling drunk
and leaving me
marooned and mute,
almost like sleep.

That was the summer
we didn’t argue
about the chores.
It was the summer
of silence
packed inside a rising weight
of northbound boxes
with promises
we feared we wouldn’t keep.

You went about your work
as if across a floor
too thin to bear the tremor
in your voice
when I explained
again
the logic of our choice.

When at last
the sun struck,
pounding steam
from besotted growth,
distilling stalks and tendrils
tipped to probe
the freshly opened air,
July uncoiled in swirls
that broke like fists
against the house.

I stared
on toward August,
half already boxed
and sealed,
unable to return
or yet to go,
knowing
you did nothing wrong
except not be
who I kept wanting
you to be.

At length
a need for ballast
sent me out
to try to put
our long delinquent yard,
its freight of endless rain
and mounds of heat,
in order.

A tarp lay bent
beneath a crust
of last year’s autumn,
black brown leaves
fermenting back to humus
wedged between
the porch and mower.

When I pulled it back
I saw them
twisting in the sudden light
as if the fifth day
had dawned
with warmth
and wariness
into this breaking world.

Slick and silken things,
they stirred newborn in coiled
bands of oiled rust and taupe,
some dozen lemon-yellow tails
mud flat heads,
each body finger-thick,
half a forearm long,
writhing and unwrapping,
glistening blank malevolence
awake to meet the sun.

So this was life,
a kind of hope
that rose
as if from earth itself,
inherited with poisons
from past lives
bitten with desire.

It was late August when I killed them,
packed their venom into boxes
headed north.






Seed Time

                                                                                               

A hawk has bothered me all afternoon;
his granite silence lurks on oak limbs

above the feeder. He floats
his heavy bulk from tree to tree,

scanning sparrows, doves, and squirrels
squabbling over seed, brash, brazen devourers,

grabbing their fill, shoving one another
aside, chaos of brown, black and gray,

yet working their way toward some terrible
order: who will eat, who weaken, who will

last the winter, who will linger late
in a patch of sun beneath the hawk?






Wind



Wind spills off the plains
like the soft lap of lake surf
on summer nights,
silent except for a low hum
that delivers a persistent pressure
to eardrums and organs,
causing folk to bend ever so slightly
to the tilt to the day.

Further south it has curled about itself,
tight muscles, lifting, clawing, dropping
objects and living things.

We have a smallness within us,
you and I, that puffs and thrashes
against the cage we’ve built around it.
Mine prowls the house,
kicks at papers,
punches holes in the Vivaldi,
sends little devils spinning
across the polished pine,
causing the dog to twitch in her sleep.

On those days I tighten the screws
around the storm doors,
double caulk the windows,
and crank up the music
for fear of letting mine loose
on the world
at the same time as yours.