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Night Verses

The airy rush of thoughts today
The evening breeze has whisked away.

The wind that spoke to me in wings
Has flown and left old, scattered things.

Some small and faint discarded words
Remain like fragile bones of birds.

I gather letters from the ground,
Recall their lofty flight and sound.

I turn their verses rune by rune
To lines beneath the harvest moon.

Revived, deciphered bird I know
I’ll hold a moment, then let go.

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The Hills and Hours

Hills in layers. Hills upon the hills
In grays and blues that overlap, broad strokes
Of paint. The hum of depth and distance fills
This world of roses, granite, herons, oaks.
____The need for pressed, accustomed places kills
____In time. Nostalgia smolders. Memory smokes.
____Our thoughts drift up, away, and dissipate.
____In quiet kitchens we sit, still, and wait.

The language of the hills is heard in grass,
And spoken, too, by leaves, owls, ferns, and toads.
It’s scrawled on streams, wind-etched on lakes of glass,
And found engraved in rock as land erodes.
____And while these living phrases pass
____In lotic, lentic, and tectonic codes
____We might decipher if we’d travel deep,
____We tilt our heads to silent dreams, and sleep.

Palimpsestic—as the old for new gives way—
The hills in folds provide a place to learn
That things emerge as even some decay,
As do the flames from ash when seasons burn.
____Yet we in kitchens of each passing day
____Ignore those landscapes we can’t quite discern.
____And sit, and wait, for hours upon the hours,
____Flat, still lifes: small vases of cut flowers.

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Brian Palmer is managing editor of the literary journal, THINK. He earned his MFA in Creative Writing-Poetry Concentration at Western Colorado University. He lives in Grand Junction, Colorado.


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9 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    These are wonderful, Brian. Night Verses is very affecting since I’ve recently returned to a half (more like third) finished novel which I will continue ‘reviving’ after posting this.

    The Hills and Hours put me in mind of a Wordsworth quote ‘ Getting and spending we lay waste our powers’, as we sit locked away in our ‘kitchens’, oblivious to the beauty beyond. I was also minded of ‘Wind’ by Ted Hughes, where the hills become a main character in the poem. However, in your poem, the hills take preeminence over the human characters by their steadfastness, which I think made this an exceptional piece of poetry.

    Anyhow, back to my half (third) written novel and thanks for the read.

    Reply
    • Brian Palmer

      Thanks for the comments and kind words, Paul. Wordsworth was indeed on my mind as I wrote this poem; I believe “The World Is Too Much With Us” epitomizes his Romantic ideal. It does seem that far too often we fail to use our senses—coupled with, necessarily, our Imagination—to communicate with and learn from nature which has the tremendous transformational power to turn rather dull, staid complacency to constant awe. And also, we forget that to experience the beauty, mysteries, and abundances most certainly to be found just beyond the safe and familiar “frames” of our lives requires no small measure of our own volition.

      I admire Hughes, by the way. Like him, I write to reflect my belief that nature is a discernible and consequential force—whether beneficent or otherwise is inscrutable, often depending on the subject and, therefore, subjective, and a deep philosophical question, to be sure.

      Good luck with your novel! I’m happy to know I had a small part in urging you to gather up those letters once again!

      Reply
  2. jd

    Really enjoyed, Brian, especially the first, which I could
    do quickly. The second with take more time and re-reading
    but I have no doubt it will leave me satisfied.

    Reply
    • Brian Palmer

      Thanks, JD! I’m so happy you enjoyed “Night Verses.” I do believe in the beauty of what’s “fleeting.”

      Reply
  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    These are both very fine, Mr. Palmer. I love the intensely visual opening of “Hills and Hours,” which reminds me of California’s coastal range, where my roots are. I also enjoy the limpid rhythm and alliteration in both.

    Reply
    • Brian Palmer

      I appreciate the kind words, Julian. What’s amazing is that I drafted this poem while hiking in the hills just west of Atascadero! That area is absolutely beautiful, almost ineffably so, and certainly inspiring. I’m happy my poem triggered some memories and emotions for you. What else can a poet hope for?

      Reply
  4. Cynthia Erlandson

    I especially love “Night Verses”. My favorite aspect of it is the way you make words themselves a theme by relating thought / speaking / letters / verses / runes / lines / deciphered; and then you make airy /breeze /wind / seem almost visible images by the other images that surround them.

    Reply
  5. C.B. Anderson

    In the last line of the first stanza of “The Hills and Hours”, the comma you place after “sit” does some strange things to the meter: This caesura forces the reader to put a stress on “sit,” and thus with “KITchens we,” there are two consecutive unstressed syllables, which seems odd. Why not:

    In quiet kitchens we sit still and wait.

    If you meant “still” in the sense of “up to the time indicated” or “yet,” then why not:

    In quiet kitchens still we sit and wait.

    Part of the difficulty here is that “quiet” and “still” are sometimes synonymous, but the unnecessary comma(s) are the real culprit. Otherwise, I thought this was a really good poem, filled with subtle thoughts and layered images. And the nonce form you introduce here intrigues me. If it doesn’t have a name yet, then you should give it one. Hold on! I see now that this is ottava rima. The indentation of the second half of each stanza is what threw me off!

    Reply
  6. RF Brooks

    Nicely done. A solid command of meter and rhyme. Also appreciate your concrete imagery. If you continue to write poetry like this you’ll put together a collection any poet should be proud of. You’re a solid poet.

    If I had one wish though, it would be that you find ways to introduce more idiomatic patterns of speech into your poetry. As it is, it is beautiful, but in a very literary way. I don’t like the word derivative (because the word is often misused), but one doesn’t get the sense, yet, for a unique voice or personality in these poems. Rather, they feel like lovely poems that could have been written in 1921.

    Just something to think about.

    Reply

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