Bio Note: In 1976, I moved with my family to Fairbanks, Alaska to teach in the creative writing program at the University of Alaska. I’m retired now and divide my time between Fairbanks and Bellingham, Washington. I’ve published seven books of poetry, as well as a collection of essays.
News from an Outlier
Ten times the size of Earth, Planet X is thought to circle the sun beyond the Kuiper Belt. This planet is not welcoming. There is no running here, each step a trudge, nor can we breathe its air. From here the sun’s a giant among stars but gives no heat. We live under plastic, read by artificial light, a greenhouse world divorced from the dark plains and hills outside. The only foods we grow grow underground— root vegetables and grubs, the grub we eat. The legend says we came from planet Earth, shipped out when all the inner worlds gave way a thousand generations back. Here on the system’s edge one year takes many lives, and slowed by this widow’s monstrous gravity we live deliberately, a tortoise life. The only dance we do is laggardly and making love may take us several nights. Each month evokes its own philosophy. The present is an existential one. The children here can ply no other path, so there’s no need to write our history. Let them be whole and wholly of this mass, thriving on dreams and weighty artifice.
The dogs bark out a fever in the blood beginning to understand winter, its persistence like a door between the other seasons. Evening turns to stone. The crunch of snow beneath my skis is a gloat of sound suspended out beyond the reasons men invent, those little harbors of rescue: like the unclean kitten I brought home and gave a name to, set out milk on the back porch steps in a yellow bowl. She grew, I grew, and soon on newsprint in a cardboard box other kittens tumbled out of her: wet knobs in need of a tongue. Oh sunset and bacon kitchen of my childhood, dark, sticky house well rid of your love! where a perfumed corpse strung up each night in the hallway whispered the rabbi's wife had been unfaithful in Elmira, where youngest of five male cousins I must crawl beneath the porch to retrieve another mildewed tennis ball. Now the stammerer's lonely rituals of paraphrase flex my tongue. One day I saw her leap above my head, claw down a ruby-throated hummingbird. Under a mound in the back of the yard I buried the bird. The hole it left in air has followed me here. Here sun strikes sparks in the budded branch-tips and the eye, cutting between black flakes, eases toward a dangerous array. There at the height of a spruce an obsidian raven roosts, earth-arrow targeting the moon. The moon a shattered brightness entangled in the pink edges of a cloud in the deep blue evening sky, winter melting, sunset flowering over the damp brown earth forever
©2022 John Morgan
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to say what it is about the poem you like. Writing to the author is what builds the community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -JL