Cherry Grove Collections: The Art of Lyric

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Sample Poems by Joseph Spece

A Letter

Early morning: coffee in a steaming cup,
kettle on the hob. I remember
running out with ball and mitt
when tar was still fresh on your soles;
you hadnít dropped toolkit yet, nor rested,
before I was tucked like a rolled Times
in the crook of your arm, laughing loud.

Though given to walking off
when company called, you smiled
from the dark shed
when I banged about the window, mad.

In death you had a room
not unlike that: a made bed, bottle of beer,
television set.
Standing on stairs in a navy coat.

How is it you move in gaits
about the space of mind I saved
for adamant, pneuma, pyx?
Your lunch pail is luggage.
A dun pick-up is driven
about the dipping hills.

Father, I am swung to shoulders, perched,
looking down at a dirt drive.
I wonder if I am equal
to this habit I inherited.


Mind, your matter is a great nest.
You would not close shutters,
would not wire the coves of your
twig sheaves to a pole
miles off; and should rain dampen
the bedding at your bottom,
it is the throat that tastes--
the throat in the mind; the weather
cannot daunt, nor loss, nor can trap
still the teem of that
greeny composition. Your borders
recede and breathe deeply; your livery
is flown, happening; beyond
the bunch of larkspur that seems
the best of your pastiche,
there is another,
and the promise of another.

A Hand, Held

Stowed a switchblade in slack
jeans, felt like Sodapop.

Now say itís too risky to look,
pulled from the pocket

where sheíd been, warm and even.
Stars bit through the wavy heat.

Say Iíve been shielded, Iíve been
shielding me?though I like the red

howls sounding Belmont to Main.
I like the girl silvery and gone.

It wants to be finished, this.
I keep trying to decide

which row will be the final cover.
Iím bad to begin or get over.

The Knife

At twelve you learned
the nature of wantingís
wound. You gathered

the small parts in a coven
to make walking.

What then
will you call this cry--

the one
wells at his skin

bared in its born way--
bared for those
beyond your ken?

Youíll learn to limp again.