American Poets: Jim Harrison

by lizard

Jim Harrison looks like he’s been carved from granite weathered by some serious storms. I was finally prodded into buying his most recent publication, In Search Of Small Gods after watching an episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain (here’s a bit of the chat between Tony and Jim)

And here’s a double shot (first and last poem) from that book. Not a bad way to start this last week of April, right?. Enjoy. (note, the formatting of both poems has been slightly altered to fit the virtual page)



I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across
the lake in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools,
the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic,
used tires, taverns saloons, bars, gallons of red wine,
abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves,
gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls
who haven’t quite gone totally wild, river eddies,
leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil,
turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages in the woods,
the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands
of birds I’ve talked to all of my life, the dogs
that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow
me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose,
the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see
from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling
to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot.



Maybe the problem is that I got involved with the wrong
crowd of gods when I was seven. At first they weren’t
harmful and only showed themselves as fish, birds, especially
herons and loons, turtles, a bobcat and a small bear, but not
deer and rabbits who only offered themselves as food.
And maybe I spent too much time inside the water of lakes
and rivers. Underwater seemed like the safest church I could
go to. And sleeping outside that young might have seeped
too much dark into my brain and bones. It was not for me
to ever recover. The other day I found a quarter in
the driveway I lost at the Mecosta County Fair in 1947 and
missed out on five rides including the Ferris Wheel and the
Tilt-A-Whirl. I sat in anger for hours in the bull barn
mourning my lost quarter on which the entire tragic history
of earth is written. I looked up into the holes of the bulls’
massive noses and at the brass rings puncturing their noses
which allowed them to be led. It would have been an easier
life if I had allowed a ring in my nose, but so many years
later I still find the spore of the gods here and there but never
in the vicinity of quarters.

  1. Ran into a friend of mine with an ugly face, but knew I’d never meet this maverick horse. Felt ashamed I never heard of him, but he should feel the same way. He could teach me things that I will never learn, and I wonder, “Why” Life throws you this at you from time to time, but with me, I will wonder why my God didn’t hook me up with this man. His fame dont mean squat, but I think he feels the same. Bit of anger involved, as he is the guy I always wanted to run into, as I think he could have fixed me. That one friend evades my ass, but he is him and he will never know.He eats lamb and I want to eat lamb. Saw Harrison while surfing and it was a “God Wink” as I dont do reservations. My God gave me a glimpse at 60 of what I always wanted to be. I guess I must thank Him and him for just being Jim.

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