Rick Cannon



In a flawed pane of the copy room window
the street and its large, brick church sway and ripple.
As I move, the skyline – spire and cupola, mansard and tower,
the Capitol’s fluted, bone-white dome – wavers and buckles
like loose canvas. Over time, I’ve let it go, let it slide down air
to its grassy ancestor, seven green rises cut-scaled easily by hoof,
evened for eons by the mammal knee, before man came, unready
for rancor and for history, with the strange idea in a rolling plain
of a plumb, square, and level wall.

In such an uneven plain, which is every one, this explosive idea
must have occurred: The vine in his hand one day was revelation,
and where he drove his stakes among discords
of declivity and incline, a level gourd of water grew both respite
and pitch-pipe. After these – string, level, maul, and stakes –
inexplicably, he cut the stone.
At first day’s end, he may have surveyed the funny thing he’d made
and given it a name – ‘rest,’ or ‘law,’ or ‘song,’ or ‘wall.’
For ages now, the stone’s been dressed.

He doesn’t see me here – no building yet, no warped glass for me
to waver-back in – nor, as he stretches the vine, does he see
the many dark-clad models ghost the stain of woods behind him,
twisting out elaborate pantomimes like men with guns
securing dust-mote silent homes,

though he needs no other reason to do this thing
than that the thing calls to him to be done.

Every time can be a simple one.
We dance our dance in the room we’ve made.
The tall sun zig-zags June by June above our chosen paths
warming the same cheek going out and coming in.
We tend the business that occurs to us, that we invent,
then, like this man just dropping behind the rise, we wind the string
around the cup, toss the stakes, shoulder the maul and are gone.


Rick Cannon is a graduate of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop. He has several grants from the Maryland Arts Council and has served both on that Council and as co-editor of Poet Lore. His chapbook The Composition of Absence came out from Pudding House in 2004. He has taught at Gonzaga College High School for the past three decades. He and his wife of thirty-seven years, the poet Lori Shpunt, have reared five children and reside in Silver Spring, MD.

Published in Volume 8, Number 4, Fall 2007.


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