POETICS: 3 Poems by Marc Harshman

“There Will Be Dancing”

Photo by Santiago6686 from PxHere (photo colorized)
A fiddle tune bearing, rough-shod,
the memory of the village:
                     sunlight on stucco,
                     leaf-plastered paths in autumn,
                     spectral sheep
                           in moonlight and bracken,
                     the lilt of the market tongue,
                           ancient beyond telling.

A fiddle tune bearing, sweet as fruit,
a memory of timelessness:
                    candles on narrow sills
                    marching each night through Advent,
          a bowl of rose petals, peach
                      and orange and crimson,
          garlic and lamb simmering
                      in a black pan,
          kisses long enough for tasting.

All have returned, just here.
Listen. They come round again.
There will be dancing, too.

From "Green-Silver and Silent" (Bottom Dog Press, Ohio, 2012)

“Yew Piney Mountain”

For Doug Van Gundy

WestVirginiaVille.com photo | July2022
In the old fiddle tunes there is always
a stream running – rocks and roaring cascades.
In the best tunes, on the Yew Piney mountain,
there’s a rising wind, a young girl’s whistling,
a piper readying for battle.
And someone’s on their death bed – true enough.
And a cat is screaming, strangled
with midnight desire – sure.
And somewhere granddad is mumbling to himself – granted.
But there are, as well, frothy backwashes
and somewhere above, little grace-notes
echoing within the bell jar of quiet.
In the woods behind all this silver singing
a child adventures through a swift-settling fog,
the oak and hickories mute with secrets.
There are no easy endings, and yet
the pulse keeps ticking where the fiddler
predictably returns the up-and-down
ladder of seconds and days and years.
The stream, of course, keeps speaking
its many tongues, running syllables and notes
loose and free over its ancient bed.
But is it running with whiskey,
or running with fire,
or just now simply running with spring,
icy on this first warm day,
running only to run, to run away?

From "Believe What You Can," Vandalia Press/West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV

“The Last Dog Dead”

In Memoriam: Larry Gibson

Colorized image from pxhere.com
Soon the wind dropped and the snow began its lazy dance
         filling the night with silence.
He lays a map under the single lamp.
Three cigarettes had gotten him this far.
He reached for the dog’s head without thinking dog,
         without thinking reach, without thinking.
The blood was on the stairs and would not be forgotten.
He could dream the summer hills.
He could take the picture frame
         and right it there on mother’s wall.
The dynamite had shifted it again – they were
         on the near side of the mountain now.
The drag-line was sure to follow.
But this was February – a true blizzard brewing up outside.
Mother had moved. A trailer on Miller’s Run.
The grandkids would miss the farm.

With his bare hands he could think, he could reach,
         reach down his shot-gun.
That dog had not been the best he’d ever had.
She hadn’t been real smart but she had been a friend
         before Massey’s thugs shot her.

Before Massey’s thugs shot her
         the knoll had been anchored by the old cemetery.
It was gone now, too. Hardly anyone knew about that.
Bulldozer pushed it into the valley-fill in less than a morning.
The snow keeps falling.
The silence was good, was rare, and wouldn’t last
          longer than the storm.
He wasn’t really sure whose blood was on these shoes.
Maybe the dog’s. Maybe his own. Maybe someone else’s.
What he knew was he had a story to tell
and no one was going to listen until blood signed its name.
This is that story. It is about these mountains,
         about how they die, about the blood
         shed when the last light is turned off,
         the last paycheck mailed,
         the grocery boarded up,
         the school closed,
         the last dog dead.

From "All That Feeds Us: The West Virginia Poems," Quarrier Press, WV,


POEM: “Almost” by Marc Harshman: November 4, 2021: ‘The world will go on without me but for these few moments I am/ sitting on top of the world, a simple summer’s day, away/ from the busy rush of roads, the scrolling of screens,/ almost off the map, almost heaven, almost where/ sky meets eternity …’

POETICS: The Art of Being West Virginia’s Poet Laureate: March 18, 2021: We sit down — digitally — with longtime West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman and quiz him about his “Dispatch From the Mountain State” in the NYTimes and the obligation of a poetry to be the sort of “political being” described by W.H. Auden.

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