Timothy Houghton

(USA)

 

Boy Dreaming During the Sermon

 

summer

Sunlight covers the stained-glass windows, bright arms and halos

he copies on blank pages

at the front of his Bible. What exactly is the meaning of thick smiles

and downturned heads?

They are one thing always,

yet hard to pin down. And these!— maybe the same birds

at the edge of his back yard, where trees host kingbirds

and finches of searing and absolute gold.

He wants out of here—

his wool pants shine on his thighs like ice on blacktop

where hands rub with impatience. He thinks about frosted windows,

trapped light—not quite human but warming the house

and saving money.

The whole family wears starch and wool

because snow inhabits every air. At this moment, flakes light up

with oratory and memory

and spread apart like slowly spoken syllables.

He catches them

in quiet hands cupped together on his lap

and fashions them into a globe. Black Bibles surround him like space.

 

Now Down

elegy to Jack

 

The way cats die—eyes open—is the way I’m going to bury you.

Surrounding me and you

and seven pear trees in leafless January:

weather,

as though a friend is trying to get my attention from a distance

without disturbing others.

Down you go, through ten thousand wings

you studied from various perches

inside and out.

With a slight bite

to my ankle, you’d let me know the score. My blue sweatshirt

wraps around you to keep you buoyant, as if you needed that.

 

Italian Cook

at the island retreat

With angles and momentum,

his Roman nose

amplifies

the mighty force below it:

his gut—stuffed

with happy negligence,

pulling him forward

tilting him backward

at the same time—

projecting, one might say,

command, or (at the least)  unbudgable

balance.

Giorgio is the kitchen.

He talks English like lobster claws

clicking above his grip.

He spits rocks from his mouth. Once only

one of us touched a knob

in his kitchen

(a little knob, leading to cereal bowls):

we learned about transitions,

we saw his finger

shake with violence    in front of

his screaming

mouth—Leave me alone!

 

Leave me alone! We stepped outside

the open door,

guilty, perplexed, punished

in the shining fog.

 

The Windmill Machine

off the grid

Lightning struck it

and burnt the circuit dead. Soon the wind

driving it

stopped

and birdsong, too,

in needles of spruce:

stillness, like white-feathered seeds

stuck on a window screen.

The truth came clear under the settled dust:

I’m a passenger

in a big machine, the windmill

an engine,

nature

an alien thing. Such a weird universe.

If the captain brings his boat to this island,

I’ll go back to the mainland

but what will it be that I’m crossing

and what trick awaits me on the journey back?

The windmill exists

between the pulses

we feel in our necks.

It used to answer

the questions we’ve wondered about. Fixing it

is our lives.

 

Killing Art

11,000 BCE, the Clovis People

In their minds

picturing

ideal facets and deadly lines,

they knapped phosphoria

—a rare and brilliant killer—

holding it up to the sky

to gauge the precision

to penetrate mammoth,

their fingers

bloodied by edges

that cut with a touch.

Other good killing machines

were drawn from the earth at this time

—agate, jasper, opal—

and shaped into more

than practical art.

Knowing the dangers

of facing the beast,

their pleasure was deep

tying point to shaft:

symmetry of handwork,

luminous rock and its power to kill—

they did it to live.

Like crumpled pages,

spalls lie in heaps

in the courts where they worked,

but the final lights

tore into flesh.

 

________________________

 

Timothy  Houghton, from the United States, received a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Modern British and American Literature from the University of Denver. Many organizations, including Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, and Hawthornden Castle International Retreat, have awarded him 28 fellowships to work on his writing. His fifth book of poetry (The Height in Between, Orchises 2012) has just appeared. The two publishers of his books—Orchises Press (Washington, D. C.) and Stride Press (England)—are well-known and internationally respected poetry presses. His work has been favorably reviewed in a number of venues, including The Literary Review and Chelsea. His poems have appeared in numerous national and international journals, including Chelsea, Malahat Review, Quarterly West, and Stand. He teaches at Loyola University Maryland. For years he has been active with Audubon, mainly as a leader of birdwatching hikes.

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