Rick Cannon



He was not the best of fathers
when I was young and the best of sons.
Those lessons he gave I carefully lost
and took my truths from strangers.

How is it then his death broke me
like any loyal boy? His reclining face
of ash and ochre hovers in my mind
like some macabre magician's trick

over the heady bank of flowers,
stays with me years later, threatens
never to leave. Sometimes his death
inhabits my body like fog, the day

a gray sheet raised by a blind sun,
a gray sail pulling me toward him,
and I hear his cloud voweled voice.
Tonight I could drive in this sorrow

till dawn, walk in it till twilight
and lie down at its blue horizon,
my soul drifting out and out
in it like a small tin can.



After the buck leaps in front
of the car, I joke to my boy,
"He's on his way to Wichita."

Then strangely all day I touch
wichita, feeling at doorways
the stiff flaps of teepees,
at the xerox brushing ash and
berry inks. It gathers mass.

It seems in wichita less is spoken,
sharing easier, and by evening
I've grown sure wichita is
the center of all gentleness
where charity rules truth
and the land remains unbroken
under long prairie grasses.

Whimsical as it may seem, when
I see the buck now, or the doe
and fawn blocked from wichita
at the side of the road, I know
the dark shade of their sorrow

and the mystic twitch of impulse
which must ignite those lean
delicate boltings before our lights.

Richard Dana

mixed media on canvas, 20" x 16"(1994)
see more work by Richard Dana




He stands barefoot on the gray concrete,
the iron season cooling the blood
dull red through his flat slow soles.
He's forgotten why he came to the garage
and stands in his shaggy robe before hammer,
awl and ratchet, dumb, blank,
as if stunned by a piece of news.

Out the window he sees the tight copse,
stripped spar and mast shrouded in pale
yards of light.

Still he stands, lost,
but beginning perhaps to sense, as dawn
will seep beneath a blind, that from far away
and through much trial he's come
exactly here. And as he stands issuing

breath, that slow rhythm leaf by leaf,
he feels the earth shift slightly
under tonnage of wind
toward white winter.

For several minutes he stays his feet flat
on the stinging stone, a robed man
in a cold garage accepting his extremity,
seeing it had always been so:
even from the beginning he'd been,
by far, out too far to survive
more than just this little while.



and lays his head softly
in a damp bed of iris
pulling a knit cap so tight
across his face he sees through
yawed webbing warm blue

sky and green stems descending
from a dozen upthrust pods,
bright yellow! Large,
wobbling, half the morning
honeybees come,

legs extended black as phones,
swinging down ragged blooms
to his face. Through thin petal-
cups, as through a filmy curtain,
he sees each bee's bulky

fumbling and hears malevolence
whir in his ear like seething
pieces of Beezelbub.
Slowly, then, the stem
straightens, throws its yellow

gob into the warm blue air,
again! again! the boy
imagining the honey-slow
frenzy of the hive, its
great feeble bison of a queen.



For a long time
with the heavy, dreamy struggle upward,
the natural cupping of the hands,
the lengthy earning of a stroke,

a man does not know fire.
It's not until he sees how easily things melt
and slide away,

how his father went,
his mother fails,
the skin over his wife's cheekbones
suddenly softens, is looser,

not until then does he walk on flaming grass
into the furnace of the trees
and wonder that he's not consumed.


Rick Cannon, graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, has taught English at Gonzaga College High School and as an adjunct at Trinity College, for the past 27 years. He and his wife of three decades are the parents of five children and live in Silver Spring, MD. His poems have appeared in dozens of periodicals including America, Antietam Review, Folio, The Iowa Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Mudfish, Nimrod, Whole Notes, and Xanadu. In 1992 he was awarded Best Poem of the Year (for "Of Little Faith") by the Catholic Press Association, in both 1995 and 2001 a Maryland State Arts Council Grant in Poetry, and in 1996 a Pushcart nomination (for "Point of Arrival") by Poet Lore. In 1998 his chapbook manuscript, Of Little Faith, was a merit selection in Baltimore's Artscape, and he was chosen to read at the Miller Cabin. Since 1995 he has devoted much of his writing time to Otis Truitt, a tale of historical fiction set in the Civil War. Currently, he co-edits Poet Lore.

Published in Volume 4, Number 1, Winter 2003.