Bio Note: In 1976, I moved with my family to Fairbanks, Alaska to teach for a year in the creative writing program at the University of Alaska. I’m still there. I’ve published seven books of poetry, as well as a collection of essays. I’m also an occasional contributor to V-V Talk, most recently a short piece on the unusual Japanese form, the zuihitsu.
Off the Flyway
Three ducks shuffle up from a snow-melt puddle across from the Pumphouse bar and failing to look both ways—or either way—saunter blithely onto asphalt. Two gloss-green and one gray-brown, all clueless to the looming danger cars at sixty pose. So as baffled traffic piles up behind, I brake, honk, stutter to a stop— when finally my racket turns a head. Befuddled flaps and squawkings as wings spread and feathers skim the windshield making for the breath-light vault above the creek-side bar where distant flocks and brooding speculations unfurl a landscape where no people are.
Mt. Rusty Cars
Tanana Lakes, Fairbanks, Alaska The orange metal of abandoned axles, crumpled hoods, radiators, fenders and parts unknown like some cubist apocalypse after a war— cars totaled on bourbon rollovers at three a.m., stockcars run off the track, pickups sliding on icy pavements into a tree, or the bloody upshot of a road-crossing moose, all roped off and piled in a hillock, rust-orange and brown on which a swallowtail lazes taking in sun and where a sign incised in birch declares with a wink, “Mt. Rusty Cars,” just as we hear a fisherman shout, “Oh, shit!” for the big one that slipped his hook. Our last time here Ben spotted an eagle perched at the top of a spruce. Now he’s moved on into his grown-up life, and like the couple we were in our early years, we tread a path of our own— this morning’s walk meanders down “Chickadee Lane”—taking our time and listening to trills, a yellow-rumped warbler, and is that a hermit thrush? Your cracked pelvis mended, my prostate tumor tamed, yet they forewarn like the riff you performed the other day in a minor key, a requiem without divinity. Last week a small plane went down in the hills killing the pilot—the father of a friend—aged 81. You say, “I don’t even plan to be driving a car by then.” The whole of life comes crashing to an end, but as the horizon angles in precipitous, we cradle moments like these as sunlight sparks through aspen and birch— like holding a newborn granddaughter in your arms, smelling her waxy scalp and kissing her sleepy eyes.
©2021 John Morgan
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell her or him. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL