Guest Poet John C. Lawton


We hove into the nick of it
The teeth of winter.
Mountainous bird of white
Athwart the car.

Wings beat side windows, 
Darken and rock,
Ride the weary wipers,
In a heavy, slow flutter.

Goose breast, limp plump, 
On the windshield,
Horned beak scraping the
 Hood, metal and ice.

Roof groaning, buckling
Under the weight,
Eyes burning into white,
Knuckles numb clenched,
The road ahead buried
In down and drift.

Then she lifted her
Great dun body,
A gull rising
From a frozen lake,
A fish clamped to claws.

After the flight,
The car bandaged with snow
Bled a thin, clear ooze.

September, 1998

John C. Lawton's Questions:

Does the extended image of the car in the storm reflect more than the subjective experiences of driving through a snow storm?

Further, does this analogy enhance the reader's vicarious experience or do violence to it?

Correspond with John C. Lawton at
with your ideas about this poem.


The gorge
Seems a half-mile deep,
The shelved stone, mostly shale
Dripping and muddy,
Half-inch hemp rope
Looped around a tenacious fir 
Lowers us, burning hand
By burning hand.

Salmon river
Coils in thick bushes,
Heavy green, then a foil shining
Quicksilver in the summer solstice sun.
Flashing against the falls
It ignites along the top of
The water, a sheer sheet
Rising vertically of blinding edges,
Burrowing deep into
The eye-brain core. Then blank gone.

The falls
Are a flailing curtain of mist,
A rainbow net--if you're lucky enough.
The wind cries from its wet
Plungings only to hide insolent
And sulky in rock hollows.

Hours later, after the icy swim
In the falls catch basin,
Wading in warm pools atop,
The green rift valley, dropping
Away, at least fifty feet below,
The earth crease, the time wound,
Somehow in the green spots
It lifted out of time.

I am trying, with a tiny nylon net,
To catch minnows and crayfish.
The flat rocks of the shallow creek bed
Are slimed slick with silt deposits.
Two hours of sun burn
On back and neck,
And a few half-dunkings,
I slide like a dancer on ice,
Drop a crayfish
Into a plastic cup.

September, 1998

John C. Lawton's Questions:

What does the blinding flash of light signify within the poem's context ?

What, in your opinion, does the poet bring away with himself from this outing?

Correspond with John C. Lawton at
with your ideas about this poem.


Marking a loss.
In Chinese ink
The stark trees ask.

Buffalo hills in rut
Nuzzle stubble of fields,
Paw the green winter wheat.
where the earth grows.
A dirt crotch
birthing muddy waters.

Rain and mint
In the rusted wind, a hinge,
fences against stones.
A crowded sky so tiny,
In the black fury,
Sparrows and crows.

She died in the mud
As surely a hospital,
Buried with
her hair blowing in the corn silk,
Bones drying in clay, chalking a hillside,
Whiter than clouds
Perched in spring leaves,
Tight infant fists beneath the mime
Along telephone lines,
Hanging dragon clothes
In the zeroed air.

September, 1998

John C. Lawton's Questions:

Does this work as a discussion of grieving or does it seem inauthentic?

Is there a redemption possible here or not ?

Correspond with John C. Lawton at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop