The 2River View 27.3 (Spring 2023)

Jeff Hardin

I Write to You as an Exile and a Confidant

A universe awaits, but sometimes an orchard
will do, an exile worth standing in a while,
if only because sometimes a thought can be like
an apple reached for, tugged loose, then tasted.
Once a story has begun—whatever its outcome
is moving toward—should we convince ourselves
we are central to its becoming? Where turn if
the story only builds but never resolves, if no 
epiphany occurs, if no context is understood, 
explaining at last a gesture or a word? Likely we 
missed almost all admonitions anyway. Having 
walked beneath towering oaks and sycamores,
so seldom did we notice saplings nearby or a spring 
come up to trace a ditch line's privet hedge or that 
someone once confided in has now been lost forever.

Last Days

For a Thursday evening, I considered myself
Whitman as he lived his last days on a street
few remember, and what can I or anyone
say about grass now (or lilacs or doorways),
since these belong to him, the tenderness, too,
letters written in the stead of soldiers, families
receiving his penmanship more ornate than
I could fashion, and I look for him as he told
me to, I who expect to be forgotten but leap
to catch a magnolia limb and press my face
against sweetness and still weep for Lorca,
talking out loud to God about certain psalms,
how the wording could be improved, not
ecstatic enough, my own questions stumbling,
and how (oh how) abound in love as fiercely
as I wish to, all around me plagues beginning,
while into the space I wander through, I invite,
invite, invite any who’ll join, our breathing singing.

Jeff Hardin’s most recent books of poems are Watermark, A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, and No Other Kind of World. His work has received the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize. He lives and teaches in Tennessee. website

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