“Not All That Much” by Marc Harshman

The following poem comes from the chapbook “Dark Hills of Home” by West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, released in 2022 by “Monongahela Books.”

“Not All That Much”

By Marc Harshman

It wasn't all that much, you might say, nothing
               to write home about, just
               a heavy green floor of ground cedar and
               springy peat
               littered with reindeer moss and lichened stones,
               here and there evidence of flying squirrels,
               muddy punctures in the cloth of the moss,
               and coyotes, their ropey, black scat,
               and overhead a canopy of
               birch, beech, and red spruce,
               the latter the local's yew pine whose pointed
               black lances
               bristle along the ridgeline.
Not that much, perhaps, and our only companion,
              a still and remembered, peculiar silence,
              a silence with weight,
              and the kind of karma you can't get
              from books, or gurus, or pets.
I lean against the gray birch,
              or sit on the white sandstone,
              or kneel in the faded leaf litter, and pray
              without thinking God or prayer,
              pray by simply staying put, letting
              time fall away from me, letting
              thought fall away from me
              until it's just me, and this, these
              things that don't seem all that much
              but are.


Marc Harshman’s “Woman in Red Anorak” won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize and was published in 2018 by Lynx House Press. His fourteenth children’s book, “Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece,” co-authored with Anna Smucker, was published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan in 2017. He is also co-winner of the 2019 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, SPM Publications [London], University of Georgia, and the University of Arizona. He has been Poet Laureate of West Virginia since 2012.


Five Questions for Two Poets Who Keep Running With Whiskey: July 1, 2022: How did West Virginia’s longtime Poet Laureate plus an MFA Creative Writing professor-poet-musician end up “Running With Whiskey” around West Virginia and the world? We have questions, they have answers. Plus, of course, poems.

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POETICS: 3 Poems by Marc Harshman: June 26, 2022: ‘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 …’

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.

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 …’

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