Reflections on Poetry
By Tod Marshall
Washington state poet laureate and Gonzaga professor of English
When a poem creates a little world in which you see and hear and, most importantly, feel, then you know you’re reading the work of a talented writer. Dan Butterworth’s poems evoke their own worlds, and “Again” is a fine example of his work. With little nods to the great poet Elizabeth Bishop, Butterworth reminds us of the fragility of things that matter and how we’re always surrounded by a rich music – some of the notes of which are sad, some of the notes of which are rejuvenating.
By Dan Butterworth
Professor of English
Listen. Upstairs the radio sings an old man to sleep.
The refrigerator hums like a freighter out in the bay.
The fire burns fed by paraffin to suggest that all home
fires need some coaxing. Outside it’s either a late cricket
or a house alarm chirping back up on the hill. And in the
window it’s all reflection. A map on the wall describes
the shapes our movements across the earth might take
as dragons or intestines, the organs of a gutted fish
that so pleased the gulls when you cast them in the water.
The things that are form a perfect prophecy of change
until things really change and become unrecognizable.
Someone mutters: isn’t that the way it is.
And now it’s all music as the night wears on, light
blinking across the Sound, deer stepping carefully
over the sand, apples shriveling on the branches,
the ticking of mortar and stone heating up. Where
are you when I need you? The violins from upstairs
play like in an old movie or the lobby of a grand hotel
where people meet to console each other for their
impermanence, to hear the voices of strangers
rise and fall in casual conversation as if to say
you may not know it but we’re in this together:
all we have to do is close our eyes and imagine.
It’s as if we’re at the beginning all over again,
starting fresh despite what history says. Listen.