Three Poems by Robert Morgan

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Wind Chime

It is the breeze that finds the voice
in these ceramic chips that stir
and twist when worked upon to ring
against their kin. It is the breath
that calls the shiver from the rods
and metal strips all tuned to sing
a certain note when brushed against.
It is the strings that hold the sticks
and plates at lengths to swing and speak
at perfect pitch both loose and bound
and sensitive to moving air,
but strong enough to stay intact
through gusts and storms, responsive to
the whims and fits of atmosphere
yet afterwards hang free, at ease,
and waiting for the next light touch,
to yield with fin and wing by turns,
and satisfy the restless sweep
of zephyrs with both tongue and lip.

 

 

Watching Clouds

The first and final luxury
we can afford is hope, and time
for viewing clouds, those luminous
evolving fleets and flocks, the towers
of blinding conflagrations, cities
without population, world
on elevated world of silent mist,
and otherworlds that float on time
and beyond time, on distant peaks
as wide and far as we can see,
a spectacle for our delight,
and, yes, a barrier against
despair and flimsy vanities,
when we are left with nothing but
this show above, cool oxygen,
magnificent as thunder’s hush.

 

 

Purple Rags

In factories and shops where grease
was integral to every task
and part, there used to be these rags
of fabric, coarse yet smooth and tough,
a certain shade of purple cloth
for wiping hands and rubbing down
machines and tools. That lavender
was chosen for these handkerchiefs
might seem at first a paradox,
the royal color to be smeared
with darkest stains day after day,
absorbing filth and solvents’ reek
from hands of foulest work, from steel
with grit and soot and oil stuck to it.
Yet purple was appropriate
to the nobility of work,
essential cleaning and repair
in pits, the dignity of sweat
and knuckles cracked and pores all black,
to keep the world’s clock chiming with
the poetry of time itself,
the calluses of palms caressed
in hues of kings and amethyst. 

 

 

 

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.

Read poetry by Robert Morgan previously appearing in Terrain.org: Letter to America poem and six poems.

Header photo by Gundula Vogel, courtesy Pixabay. Photo of Robert Morgan by Chris Kitchen, Cornell University Photography.


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