Two Poems by Jeffrey Thomson

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Divergence Test:

 Name as Many Uses as You Can for the Following Objects


  1. Brick: to prop a broken chair on a sagging porch in Blawnox; orphan a pair of children raised with only a father to care for them; hold up a wall; knock out a window; test the depth of an elevator shaft; chase the angels out of the trees in the back yard.
  2. Crate: carry the head of the emperor; carnivorous-plant stand; apple basket; dog bed; kindling for the nights of coming darkness.
  3. Ballbat: the arms of a scarecrow, the pendulum of a clock; kill flies in midair; break the arms of deadbeats; smack golf balls into the discarded mills along the dark smear of the Allegheny; flatten the dough.
  4. Quilt: cover the sick as they lie toe to toe in the high school gymnasium; snap the air into wind; elephant the couch; carry the groceries up the Mission Street stairs; parachute a leap off the garage into the Shasta daisies.
  5. Poem: test of endurance; measure of abandon; of devotion; of obsession; song of angels fleeing the trees.



How to Survive

First, take the highway south
in the direction

of the sun—after all that
ice and white

and the grizzled gray
of the roadway snowbanks

you’ll be needing something more,
something that resolves itself

in azure and vermilion.
Next, find the exit

hidden in the palmetto leaves—
you’ll have been driving for days

now, so don’t trust your eyes—
the sharp, serrated road into switchgrass

and sky, the chime of insects
filling up the car and the rich air,

the ruckus of waterbirds
filling up the trees, everything

you have ever wanted.
Limestone gravel crunching

beneath your wheels, the shotgun
house, gray against the sun,

reposing, as I am, waiting for you here,
where the page is blank, at last.




Jeffrey Thomson is the author of four books of poems, including Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon 2009), winner of the 2010 Maine Book Award, and Renovation (Carnegie Mellon 2005). He has also published an anthology of emerging poets: From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, co-edited with Camille Dungy and Matt O’Donnell (Persea Books, 2009). He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Arts Commission, and, most recently, was named the 2008 Individual Arts Fellow in the Literary Arts by the Maine Arts Commission. He is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington. His website is

Image of trees courtesy Pixabay. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.