Six Poems by Robert Morgan

Six Poems by Robert Morgan

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rolling Rocks

What was the thrill when we were young
of rolling rocks off mountain tops?
To set a flat rock up and give
a shove and see a cornered shape
become a wheel and blur with speed,
jump over logs and other rocks,
remaining vertical and fast,
exhilarated us. Round rocks
were fun but obvious. It was
the awkward ones that took some skill
to make then start and stay upright.
Was it a sense of power to watch
the heavy ones accelerate
and even fly? Or was it more
a satisfaction to move chunks
and pieces of the summit to
the lower slopes? It seemed an act
of magic to release a rock
to gravity and let it soar,
like launching kites or giving stones
an independent life to spin,
long after we let go of them,
to lower elevations, out
of sight, though we could hear their noise
in leaves, like we had given spark
to the inanimate, at least
for the descent, spun wild and free
as we ourselves would like to be.



Essential Fat

Where hickory nuts have fallen on
the pavement and been crushed by tires,
the hulls and shells are scattered as
debris across the lanes. The meat,
the tender nuggets, have been squashed
to crumbs and blown away except
for oil stains on the asphalt and
the rocks. So all the work of sun
on summer leaves and sugary sap
from roots and rain and minerals
and photosynthesis is left
as smudges of the richest fat
to shine there even after storms,
but wear away and finally fade
beneath the traffic of the fall,
the buttery flesh marks soon erased
on time’s unceasing interstate.




When once a field of hay is cut
and raked and baled and carried off,
the stubble left is bare to sun.
The heated ground and sap in roots
force up a surge of later growth.
New shoots and sprouts from stubs
stretch out and spread as in a race
with season’s end. The older roots
in place in soil fuel what is called
an aftermath or rowen, as
the blades mature for later yield,
this overplus, an opulence
of further growth, and extra juice,
the way some elderly that though
retired may have a second flower,
an Indian summer of late bloom,
with roots set deep in veteran earth
before the frost can work its math.




That bogs were sacred places once
may seem surprising to us now,
who see the mire as something to
avoid, a place of stench and rot,
a sty of muck and queasiness,
until we recognize the deep
morass is open, always open,
to sky, exposed to stars and rain
and lightning’s tongue, while soil in woods
is hidden. And bogs have access
also to the mysteries of earth’s
interior, like secret wells
of natural gases, terrible dark
of subterranean passages,
so this unhealing wound in land
can serve as portal where the air
and underworld can mingle, blend,
as heaven touches hell and thought
can meld with the unconscious weald
in this quick sore that’s never healed.



Long Term Cooling

On coldest nights the house will pop
in corners and along the walls,
way up among the rafters, down
along the joists and sills. As wood
contracts in wicked cold the nails
tear loose, boards strain and shriek and pull
apart with powerful knocks and breaks
that seem the cracks of cosmic doom
echoing the original
vast bang, the long term cooling off,
throughout the whole of actual time,
echoing still the first sublime.




In mud that lines the bottom of
a pond we find the layers of
fine silt from many rains and thaws,
as well as pollen from the trees
and flowers around the area.
And also bits of charcoal from
the wildfires in adjacent woods,
and wings of insects, fungus spores,
and tiny algae plants, all caught
in creamy sediments that serve
as archive of the biosphere
as well as almanac of trash
from our society, with crusts
of Styrofoam and plastic, nails,
and bottles resting there among
the toxic muck and rusting toys.
And yet this coating of the basin
has a retinal brightness too,
a heightened sensitivity
beneath the humor of the pond,
suggesting rods and cones that watch
not only light and dark and clouds
but also deep in time to both
the past and far beyond our death.




Robert MorganRobert Morgan is the author of 15 books of poems, most recently Terroir (2011) and Dark Energy (2015). He has published 11 works of fiction, including Chasing the North Star (2016). Nonfiction works include Boone: A Biography (2007). A native of western North Carolina, he is currently Kappa Alpha Professor of English at Cornell University.

Header photo by Mark Pellinni, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Robert Morgan courtesy the Cornell News Service.

Terrain.org is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.