American Poets: Donald Justice; Patrick Todd

by lizard

I have been grossly derelict in my assumed duty to bring poetry to these virtual pages, so I’m making up for it by bringing a double-dose for the weekend.

First up is Donald Justice, a pretty well known poet in the poetry world:


Landscape with Little Figures

There once were some pines, a canal, a piece of sky.
The pines are the houses now of the very poor,
Huddled together, in a blue, ragged wind.
Children go whistling their dogs, down by the mud flats,
Once the canal. There’s a red ball lost in the weeds.
It’s winter, it’s after supper, it’s goodbye.
O goodbye to the houses, the children, the little red ball,
And the pieces of sky that will go on now falling for days.


I will update this post later tonight with Patrick Todd’s poem. until then, here’s a teaser: it’s title is Poverello

According to the back of Patrick Todd’s book, The Iron Walrus (written in 1979), Todd received his MFA from the University of Montana, and served as poet-in-residence for the state for 3 years. At the time of print, Todd also worked as the director of the Poverello Center. Here is the same titled poem:



About seven…two feet drifts
in the morning dark
Only a monk would love thick ice hanging
from the roof Or love first morning sounds…
lobsters clicking in the pipes
On the table…rags
stiff as peeled
bark bring thoughts of August heat
What could I say to the lady
raped by some seedy trucker and left to heal in this grey house
You can rest here Stay as long as you want for once
For once even the pock marked sink
looked good in her single room
Miles off two antelope
look up startled in the picture
of blowing grass
There’s little relief in the dry board floor
But towel…soap…fresh sheets
The gold speckled boomerang ashtray lights up a dimestore
shelf in every town across the states

* * *

Ravaged by years of withdrawl
from sweet ether or heroin
Robbie comes back every morning now
shivering against the wall of the parking lot
This time he nods away
half asleep in the warm sun
He jerks in his dream…three months off his last fix
We give coffee in his private hell
His pink blanket…
pissed on thru three children
…stretched oblong
by the dog and flapt thin on the way to ten
picnics…was brought here washed

* * *

Even cream light skin
wrapped in blue
couldn’t hide your beaver hair
Your birth going out opened a hundred doors
that close now with drum percussion
Murry Yellow Horse
A name too long above the racks
Your sister’s legs brown
and dry as drumsticks
Even your foster mother’s eyes gleamed so black they made
the blonde world nervous Today the poorest
church in town and Welfare…Murry…
get you out of jail
for a long icy Greyhound
ride to Rapid City
Once a plains Indian town…now only a ring
of friends wait already drunk by noon
Cold wind…north…tin of your trailer shines so thin
it creaks in storms
So cold and clear on still nights
your radio crackles in the stars

  1. Cool, we found a book of Todd’s (poems) this weekend in Lewiston, ID. Signed by the author, only $5. Great looking paperback.

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