All rhapsodies begin in the driveway
with the way the body sings
when it is working, when the shovel
weighs in the dolphin fins
it swings instead of hands. All rhapsodies
begin with the hands, the body’s
breath and how could my father not
have craved this good labor, this hard work
in which I have discovered the secret
of Grandpa Bonnard’s happiness: He slowed
and his slowness was the savor
of silence and being alone in coveralls,
in snowfall, the crackle and groan
of gritty pavement. What do you do without a driveway
in newly falling snow, a good driveway,
a good shovel? God knows
I drifted my fair share of years
without the brown wet grain of pavement
that is clear because I cleared it.
The streetlight is conspicuous
because of how bright
the twilight in late Match. Still no mosquitoes
but some faint movement swarms
the orchard branches, grainy
leaps across a smoky sky. Already the resolution
not to go out has resulted in near
total chaos, decapitated lamps, sex dreams
and shouting matches at the butcher
block. I carry the recycling bins
out of the garage only to collide with my first
moment alone all day long. Tonight’s air
is calm. Its current bursts
like static in my eye socket. Strips of cloud, salmon
pink, proclaim their grievances
to the horizon, darkening gables and the embery
glow of a kitchen window, the voices
of children shrilling in the cul-de-sac, a gang
of girls playing tag, screaming tag
you’re it, as the shadows debut: the shadow
of my hand, my hooded head.
REPOSE WITH GOLDEN RETRIEVER
Our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.
– Saint Augustine
Awaken me to delight,
I am so thoroughly
exhausted, so bored
of my poems, my manuscripts.
4:53PM December sunset,
twilight soon to ensue.
Third trimester, Lili counts down
to the New Year, a girl
baby in her outstretched belly.
Raise, entice me, old dog
with the whitening face. Drop
your tennis ball at my feet,
your ratty old rubber fuzz
with the split jacket, the scalped
forehead. Invite my hurt
hand, my knuckle smashed
to tatters of white skin
after my temper collapsed
on the steering wheel. Bring me
to tousle your amber mane.
Whatever it was that brought me to poetry, my desire for an authentic life, or belief, probably bled into a concern for language and a concern for language made me especially careful with my words and that might be why I clicked with poetry instead of prose: The product of poetry’s care-taking is the art of the poem. In my first poetry workshop at Calvin College in fall 2009, I took care to the unhealthy extreme of dictatorial control, turning in poems no bigger than Bashō’s, tight little nuggets that were as perfectly clear to me as they were an enigma to my first readers. My favorite artist statement is Bashō’s in Learning from the Pine. Like me, Bashō never settled into a secure position. I have a glioblastoma cancer diagnosis with a 14.6 month median life expectancy. Diagnosed in 2014, I am blissfully free of symptoms, weirdly father of two, author of five collections of poems, and getting ready become a homeowner. How this happened is beyond me. Bashō concludes his statement in the best way possible: “The fact is, [my windswept soul] knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore it hangs onto it more or less blindly.” In 2009, I discovered poetry, its ecstatic nights I’d stay up with the stars and smoke a Turkish Camel on the back deck of the rented house where I slept in a sleeping bag on an egg foam mattress topper and never fully unpacked my suitcase. Now, age 33, many years and seizures later, I cling to the only thing I have, the only art I know.
Cameron Morse was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014. With a 14.6 month life expectancy, he entered the Creative Writing Program at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and, in 2018, graduated with an M.F.A. His poems have been published in numerous magazines, including New Letters, Bridge Eight, Portland Review and South Dakota Review. His first poetry collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His latest is Baldy (Spartan Press, 2020). He lives with his wife Lili and two children in Blue Springs, Missouri, where he serves as poetry editor for Harbor Review. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.