Five Poems by Chris Dombrowski

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Ten More

To obey, wake in the dark and put your head
in your hands. Look out the window and rest
your cheek on the shoulder of the mountain.
Rise and walk to where the creek falls finally
into the river—there an apple tree stands hung
with one last fruit: pick it or if it hangs too high
knock it down with a branch and eat it with three
juice spilling bites. From your knees kiss
the rill surrounded by forget-me-nots, beckon
a brook trout to your hands and if one arrives
study the vermiculate script worming along
its sides. Over a stick fire cook the fish until
its skin pales and peels back from the orange
flesh, then feed yourself—clean every last
silver rib and feed the skin and dead-eyed head
to the mass of ants on their moving hill. Fold yourself
into the small boat of those final bones. Row.



After Pavese

When the termites have gnawed holes in the deadfall
birch the downies adored before the windstorm,
the bobcat’s former perch from which she ambushed
grouse, smooth bole to which November’s thin light
clung—from that trunk, peel a yard of bark and wrap it
around your face. Then sleep. As you dream, the ravens
will arrive with sinews stripped from the haunches
of a fawn the coyotes ran until it crumbled, to stitch
your new mask shut. Without caw. Don’t startle
as, standing, you feel the small black ones that whiten
bones tumble from the sockets of your eyes. Your old eyes.
Who does not see this must blame his blindness.



Poem with the Downstairs Voices of Children Inside It

15 December, 2012

Down the lane in the dark
all the milkweed pods
open and empty, a whole field
of palms held up.

A loss of faith begins
with a loss of ritual:
cardinal I’ve never seen
but whose bright call I know,
please come this morning.

Our middle daughter has a tree
she calls “Buds,” sits inside
its branches and talks to it,
hears it talk, and a friend
invisible to us she calls
Bumfer: “When I got tired
of hiking Bumfer carried me.”

They’re downstairs drawing now:
if you could just see what
they drew, old December,
key holder—stegosaurs
with candied armor, crowned
girls with pet Tyranosaurs—
you would turn the lock
for us, you would
let us through the door.

“Jumping on the bed
all day long, all day long,
all day long,” the little one
yells: the little ones,
all those little ones.

Small creature with hollow
bones whose burden is light,
I’m waiting. “Dad, Dad, you have
to see sunrise,” the boy says,
busting into my mournful room:
“It’s like a cut from God.”



Cabin Poem 

Chunks of the bay, buoyant
in the bay. Spiders hibernating
in the pine I split. Shilpit
doe’s eyes strangely vacant
in porchlight. The gullied
heart. Root cellar drifted in
with leaves. Many letters written
without a pen. Each long nap
as a temporary death. The shut
pried momentarily open.
Three beach stones stacked
on the mantle. Cup filled
with water, bead traveling
crack in the porcelain. Wind
come upriver, quietlike, shining.




Marrakesh to Traverse City, 4,150 Miles


Then, right there, smack dab in the middle of winter,
a fig. On the sample tray at the health food store.
February’s cold rain shading to sleet ticking

against the windows, February having seeped into
bloodstreams, silent as a pesticide through fruit skin.
But it says organic? O poet laureate of boot slush,

The snow outside is strobing now, a density
of white the air seems reluctant to receive, clemency
nowhere if not within the gritty sugars of this

fig, offered now on a palm covered by plastic glove.
Biodegradable of course. A gesture only unabashed
pleasure can redeem. February, coy ash spreader,

leave our foreheads alone: we’ve enough reminders
of the dust to which we shall return. Take and eat.
Swirling outside the window a flurry of archangels

waits to gauge the density of your joy. Reports to the Lord.




Chris Dombrowski is the author of two books of poems, most recently Earth Again. His sometimes-touring live-performance poetry trio, formed with Jeffrey Foucault and Billy Conway, is called Desolation Sound.

Autumn birches reflected in pond photo by Renata Apanaviciene, courtesy Shutterstock.

  1. My favorite poem by Chris Dombrowski is the “Cabin Poem.” This poem needs a lot of analyzing to actually understand (which I don’t.) I like this poem because it is more peaceful, it being a cabin and having pine and maybe a beach around somewhere. Something that interested me from it is that in a couple of his lines he says something, then almost says the complete opposite or makes it sound ironic. He also talks a lot about cracks or an open space in something. For example he states that spiders hibernate in the pine he split, and that the shut pried open, a bead traveling crack in the porcelain. Looking up the word gully ,from line five that says “the gullied heart,” it means a ravine which would be something that is worn down by water causing a “crack.”
    Some of the lines seem ironic, in lines seven and eight, it says “there are many letters written without a pen.” Or lines eight through ten, “each long nap as a temporary death” and “the shut pried momentarily open.” It seems almost opposite. He also has some repetition in this poem, a lot of the lines state water in them. He has the bay, gullied heart, beach stones, cup filled with water, and wind coming upriver. It also has repetition towards the end of the poem with the sound of “c.” The words stacked, cup, crack, and quiet like.

  2. Out of the five Chris Dombrowski poems the one that stood out to me the most was “After Pavese” I especially liked this poem because of the imagery. The imagery in this poem made me happy and i could really see the area described. “After Pavese” included things I’ve seen and am able to relate too. Such as the fallen trees with termites gnawing away at them. Almost anywhere you go hiking or in the mountains around here you will see that. When i was a child we had property up a small river town and we frequently woke up to a bob cat on our front porch. Waiting for our dog or us to stumble up on her. So when the Author describes her ambush perch i can see this scene vividly in my head. Again he creates a clear picture of coyotes running a fawn down, because even though i haven’t seen this i have seen all these animals being from the northwest. “The ravens will arrive with snows…” I’ve seen birds picking away at dead animals plenty of times and even though its gross there is a beauty in it. All of these scenes created makes me feel nostalgic. Reminds me a lot of my childhood. The especially love the last two lines “Your old eyes. Who does not see this must blame his blindness.” Makes me realize all of these situations make me feel differently now then when i was a child. I see the world with new eyes. But i am also appreciative i took the time to look in the first place. There is beauty in death.

  3. Amongst Dombrowski’s five poems posted After Pavese stole my attention. The imagery is lucid and almost– chilling. The entirety of the poem evokes: visual, auditory, tactile and organic imagery. The beginning of the poem provides a visual image of a down tree near a fishing village in late November. Auditory imagery is present secondary to the ravens “caw”, even though the line states “without caw” (9), most would agree the word stimulates the sound in the brain. Tactile imagery is utilized with the diction “smooth” (4) and the general idea of peeling the rind from a birch tree, gives a sense of touch. Organic imagery is used in the sense that the speaker places the reader in the poem to experience its tranquil setting, then the poem transitions into the odd (possibly fearful) thought of ravens using ligaments from a dead fawn to fasten a mask made of bark on the readers face. The diction used in lines seven through nine, are graphic and almost sinister to me. The last line is thought provoking because the ravens take the subjects eye sight and this statement follows, “Who does not see this must blame his blindness” (12). I’m not sure about how the title ties into the poem. Does it pertain to the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese? In the end, After Pavese is finely crafted poem that I enjoyed.

  4. The poem, “Poem with the Downstairs Voices of Children Inside It” by Chris Dombrowski it caught my attention and was my favorite because I feel that he has a lot of connotation in this poem:
    … a friend
    invisible to us she calls
    Bumfer: “When I got tired
    of hiking Bumfer carried me.”
    with candied armor, crowned
    girls with pet Tyranosaurs—
    you would turn the lock
    for us, you would
    let us through the door.
    In these parts of the poem specifically I feel have connotation because he could mean it in a literal way or he could mean as the lord always being with the children because they are so innocent. Other things I liked about this poem was the imagery in every stanza he showed imagery of the events the children or of the outside setting. The poem made me go in so many directions of what to think the poem was about finally, in my own personal opinion I do feel as if the poem is saying that the lord is with us through everything and we might not realize that he is there but he is and is there guiding and helping us through life. This poem to me was a message to me and after reading it I feel as if I will go through life a lot stronger and more aware of certain things.

  5. My favorite poem of Chris Dombrowski’s was “Cabin Poem.” I liked this poem the most because it was simple yet extremely pleasant to read. It painted the picture of a basic cabin on a bay surrounded by nature. Throughout the entire poem I could feel the ease the speaker felt when at this cabin. I didn’t have to think hard or contemplate the poem’s meaning, I was able to just read and enjoy as I went along. I was also able to relate to the poem because my family has a small, quaint cabin on a little lake outside of Spokane.
    This poem contained a ton of imagery which is what helped paint the vision in my head. The opening line about chunks in the bay, immediately gave me the impression of small logs, parts of the land floating in the water, maybe in a small particular corner of the bay. When I came to line two: spiders hibernating / in the pine I split, I can remember all the firewood my family has had to chop for our fires. It sounds like the speaker is preparing for the fall months possibly because the spiders have been hibernating in the wood for warmth and protection. And next with the doe’s eyes in the porch light, this is so realistic. Almost all of us have seen this expression on a deer’s face. Especially in a location like the one described. I can also vividly picture the root cellar doors in the ground covered with leaves as it grows colder out. I LOVE the part where the speaker mentions each long nap being as a temporary death. It totally captures the essence of a cabin in the woods; quiet and peaceful. When I read this, I thought wow; he is talking about taking the nap of all naps, falling into the deepest of sleep. The kind of nap you can only get while surrounded by the stillness of nature. Imagery was just everywhere in this poem, it made it come to life. I really thought he ended the poem perfectly. By adding in the last few lines about the porcelain cup full of water, he provided a great image of an old cabin full of casual things like this china they used daily. It just really drove the poem home in my opinion. The very last line was like magic also, I can just picture the ever so soft and faint breeze he describes. The breeze creating little ripples in the water, so gently.

  6. After reading the five poems, the one I found most interesting was “Fig.” The first element that caught my eye was the irony. It gives the poem a little bit of life. I find the authors diction very amusing. But I sense a strong sadness in his tone. I saw this throughout the rest of the poems as well. His sentences are choppy. I feel almost rushed when reading his poems, he has an urgency. I also think the author has an eye for limitations and that is the urgency maybe. He talks of meaurments which means structure and limitations. He chose a lot of elaborate words as well. This combined with the rushed choppiness is almost overwhelming. The imagery is excellent though. There wasn’t much rhyme in the poem but when it was there it was very musical. When Dombrowski chose to rhyme he ended up creating my favorite lines of the poem. “A gesture only unabashed pleasure can redeem. February, coy ash spreader” and “swirling outside the window a flurry of archangles.” The words just flow so prettily. And they have the softest sound. It’s a very calming affect. I think I like the religious implications as well. I found a nice safety in it. His connotations are very stirring. And his denotations are very fitting. The man is a wonderful author and I enjoyed reading his poems.

  7. My favorite poem by Chris Dombrowski is “Cabin Poem.” The way he uses visual imagery in the poem stood out to me the most. I like the way I can see the crack in the porcelain from previous experiences with dropping porecelain cups and cracking them down the side. I can almost picture being in my own cabin on Lake Rooselvelt in the fall feeling the quiet wind slip through my clothes. When he says, “Spiders hibernating / in the pine I split” I see a man chopping pine wood to put in the cabins fireplace. Dombrowski uses repetition of the word bay throughout the poem as well as diction when he says the word buoyant and temporary death. The boats that are probably in the bay are buoyant, meaning that they float and rise. When someone sleeps it is almost as if they are slipping into a temporary death and I think that is why he chose those words to describe the naps. The poem is one stanza and would be a sonnet if it had one less line it in. The poem altogether gives me a winter/fall feeling and I think that is why I love it so much, because of my love for those two seasons.

  8. After reading and assessing the poems by Chris Dombrowski, my favorite is “Poem with the Downstairs Voices of Children Inside It”. There are many different aspects to this poem I enjoyed. One of those aspects is the repetition.
    ““Jumping on the bed
    all day long, all day long,
    all day long,” the little one
    yells: the little ones,
    all those little ones.”
    This stanza is the only one I noticed with a lot of repetition but it still has a lot of emphasis. When I read “the little ones, all those little ones”. I can hear it and to me it sounds like he is droning on and on. Almost like the day to day occurrences are too tiring. I don’t know if this what the author meant but that is how I hear it.
    The next aspect of this poem I liked is the imagery. The way he talks about /all the milkweed pods, open and empty / is beautiful. I can see that, I feel as if I’m walking around in the dark and seeing the pods myself. Another place where I can really see the image is the daughter with her “friend”. Not only can I imagine her playing and coloring with her friend, I can also relate to it. In my childhood I had imaginary friends and I have also talked to my young cousins about theirs. The little girl coloring with Bumfer just takes me back to a fun time in my life.

  9. Out of the five poems by Chris Dombrowski the one that caught my attention was “Cabin Poem”. He does a great job describing the cabin as if the reader is standing there looking at it. From what I understood from reading the poem, the cabin is vacant and falling apart. The writer explains how the cabin is split down the middle (“The guillied heart.”), and also chunks of the house are floating in the bay. The poem makes it seem that the character has some sort of attachment to the cabin or is just appreciating its’ beauty. How he talks about the cabin reminds me a lot of my childhood home. The house was in great shape while I lived there, but the new owners have let it fall apart. The roof is falling apart and the yard has trash sprawled everywhere. The house doesn’t even look safe to live in, just as the cabin in the poem sounds. The author sounds as if he doesn’t pleasantly remember the cabin by using a lot of negative sounding words and also words such as “death and vacant.” I noticed in this poem that the author used more punctuation than I have seen so far in this course.

  10. Out of the five poems by Chris Dombrowski “Ten More” was my favorite. It is a very detailed, yet simple poem. Dombrowski uses many different kinds of imagery to create a very vivid picture of this scenery. He uses visual imagery when explaining the way the “creek falls finally into the river” and “cook the fish until / its skin pales and peels back from the orange / flesh”. Dombrowski also uses gustatory imagery when he talks about the juicy apple. Tactile imagery is also used to talk about his knees barely brush the rill. This imagery enhances the picture a reader creates in the mind by using not just visual imagery, but also explaining the taste of the apple and the way the brush is touching his knees. Dombrowski uses a bit of alliteration throughout his poem as well. In line 4 he emphasizes the f sound in the words “falls finally”, in line 6 the h sound is emphasized in “hangs too high”, and in line 13 the p sound is emphasized in the words pales and peels. Another reason the poem “Ten More” stood out to me was the diction. Instead of saying the apple was juicy, Dombrowski wrote “three juice spilling bites”, and I think this really enhanced the sentence because although they both mean the same thing “juice spilling bites” sounds more appealing. Dombrowski also talks about cleaning the bones of the fish, but rather than just saying that he chose to state it in a more descriptive way stating “clean every last silver rib”. He goes into detail from talking about the color of the fish’s clean bones, to talking about feeding the ants on the hill with the fish’s head. Everything is very detailed and it helps to paint a very clear picture of the scenery and makes you almost feel like you’re there by describing more than just what you see, but also what you taste and feel.

  11. I was reading Fig and for me I felt like I was there. The line “February’s cold rain shading to sleet ticking” gave me this strong image in my mind of icy snow blanketing the windows and the world outside. The speaker says he is in the health food store and that the fig is organic which could be taken just as it being a store with organic food. But with the archangels at the end it makes me feel like it has to do with the fig relating to Adam and Eve. The fig has also been known as a symbol of sexuality and the knowledge of good and evil. The way he repeats February and how miserable it is outside really drives the point home that the fig is an escape from the world outside. It’s interesting that all the stanzas are three lines except the last line which makes that line seem extremely important. The speaker states several times that a fig is healthy for you its organic. But I also think that when he refers to pesticides (which are poisonous) entering the fruits skin the diction he uses leads me to think of the forbidden fruit again. The speaker said that basically the fig was the only mercy from the bitter cold and sad winter. With all the positives it leads me to wondering what is the negative to all that pleasure the fig gives the speaker. In the end the speaker said the archangels are gauging how much joy you got to report to the lord which just further implants the idea of the pleasure of the fig being a test or a trial of some sort.

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