Black Moss Press

New work from John B. Lee for Poetry Month 2021

John B. Lee is back with a new collection of poetry: Something Else. Lee returns to the land of his youth to turn the fertile earth so it yields a harvest with an almost extra-sensory connection to the soil. The poems range from Lee’s signature concern with the land, to poems inspired by the holocaust, the first world war, the War of 1812, to bull fighting. We feel that this book will have a strong resonance with those interested in nostalgia as it focuses on the act of looking back, taking stock and remembering.

Something Else will be available on our website and in bookstores on September 21, 2021!

 

Widowland

 

at the last

and

in the end

it was mostly a place

one might call

widowland

bread-warm hallways lined with

lonesome women

their men

gone to the spirit ground

and now it was a matter

of doing nothing

and no one to do it with

but a gaggle of elderly strangers

living in slow time

sleeping away

the sad-dog hours of daylight

my mother

among them

an all-girls geriatric craft class

fumbling dull scissors

in the cook smells

by the common kitchen

 

and she became

Lillian — a name

she never used

following the outline

the black tracing of a generic daisy

leaving a ghost

in the white page

a template for the tablecloth

green linen and coffee stain

remembering the light in cut scraps

and the sharp absence

of sliced-through moments

of a lifetime

the jigsaw puzzle boxed in darkness

a chaotic configuration

no amount of shaking

will achieve the random perfection

of the night sky

shining over the apple swell

of an orchard in autumn

 

and there is no one

to listen to me — she says

… no one left

who has to listen to me

 

and it breaks the heart

to hear it

a murmur of rumours

remembering red

like the fire that follows

the bone-line

into wind-blown ashes

 

 

Mud Pie Bakery

 

when we were children

we crossed the yard

from the weathered clapboard

of our cousins’ farmhouse

creasing the sand with our feet

so the fine-grained earth

puffing blond at our ankles

powdered our socks

like the up-sifting there of hard-wheat pie flour

our plush footsteps

sizing us each and all leaving

small evidence marking our wake

for our having gone this way

as we moved in a line

out past the hand pump at the barn

which we primed

for water that came in a rusty gush

filling the silver tomato juice can

to the brim

a shining liquid meniscus we dare not spill

and we plodded away

out past the abandoned car

buzzing with wasps

hiving in the Hessian jute

of the sprung seats

and stinging the glass from within with their warning

like the coming on of a slow yellow rain

as we pass on our way with our

half-bucket of garden earth stolen from the headland

which we poured out as well-watered pies

of new mud slapping the slivered flat boards

of the empty corncrib

in what my sister now recalls

as the mud-pie bakery

a row of five or six cow-flap portions

drying in the sun

the dark earth fading as it cures

 

and I remember as I write these words

how my mother confessed

when she was a little girl

she stole six eggs from the henhouse

mixing them in to her own mud pies

as I imagine

in those let-there-be-darkness days long before I was born

the yolk spilling orange over the rim of her egg-guilty hand

like the sun dropping over the edge of the earth

 

 

The Day My Mother Cut My Hair

 

all my life til then

I’d been

an obedient boy

my hair kept short

as was my father’s wish

for he believed

in a mannish trim

with obvious ears

and the short-on-top

coiffeur of a farmer’s son

though my cowlick

sprung at the crown

like that of a dam-groomed calf

while I feathered my collar below my cap

with the forehead tan

of working white-brained in the summer sun

for wearing my hat

with the salt-stained brim

like the coastline darkness and light

of the line of the shade at the lake

or the water-marked pages

of an old much-read book

and then

in freedom I fled

those hundred-acre men

and there beyond the scissor’s reach

of my father’s mind

my hair grew wild as fallow weed

one month, two months, three months

away from home in the lazy end row

of a distant school

it covered the helix, then

the cochlear swirl

then the lobes

my skull like a wilderness stone

indivisible from the green reason

a rock is born, I was born

to be loved by the open sky

like ditch-weed lace

blue chicory and all

mad grasses deep rooted

and waving their seed in the sun

 

 

and though my father

choked back rage

my mother sat me down

in a chair

washed my time-tangled hair

and gave

it shape with my sister

standing close by

 

and it wasn’t Delilah

stealing my vigour

in the star-blind dark

of an ancient sleep

it was

my mother’s hands

and her sharp surmise

in that snip and silence

with the honed skill

of the heart

when in the red quiet

of a woman’s breast

she embraces her son

and carries him forward

like the rib-shadow

of a great tree loosening its shade at gloaming

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