For the September Red Eft video, our guest poet is Robert Morgan.
The minute I read Morgan’s “Brownfield” I dog-eared the page: knowing I’d go back to it someday. It spoke to my belief that
we might find grace in wounded places. In fact, I’d once created a painting of my own that it immediately evoked called Landfill.
So I’ve, here, merged it with Robert’s telling words as the imagistic source for this first piece on the video.
The second poem, “Jar Fly,” offers its grace to a small often-ignored insect: the mysterious cicada, who—like us—creates
[For more about Robert Morgan see the bio and links below.]
“Brownfield” and “Jar Fly”
The lot that’s poisoned by a spill
of toluene or gasoline
and tons of industrial swill
and drops of mercury dispersed
among the bits of asbestos
and rusting nails and tangled coils
with scattered beads of Styrofoam
all tossed among the posts and beams
of rotting wood and toads of grease,
exploded garbage bags and inks
on asphalt floes, and silty sinks,
is touched in one remote spot by
an ironweed’s purple mystery.
The cry is more a seethe than song,
in the oaks, a call at once
bone-dry and juicy, blast so loud
it seems a thousand rattlesnakes
are giving furious warning,
so wild it’s near impossible
to spot the source. The insect, called
cicada in most places, here
was known as jar fly, since the kids,
if they could catch one, sealed it in
a jar and watched its finger-small
anatomy vibrate inside
the amplifying bulb to light
the evening calm with serenade,
with fanfare, rasping anthem.
But what was usually found in woods
was not the tiny rock star itself
but just the husk of skin it shed
before it soared into the trees
to rock the lazy summer breeze
for hours on end with love ballad.
“Brownfield” and “Jar Fly” were published in Terroir (Penguin Books, 2011).
Robert Morgan is the author of fourteen books of poetry, most recently Dark Energy (Penguin Books, 2015). Morgan
has also published nine volumes of fiction, including Gap Creek, a New York Times bestseller. Among numerous awards,
he has received the Academy Award in Literature from the
of Arts and
Letters, and fellowships from American
the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. Born in
Carolina (where he’d collected cicadas, himself, as a boy), he later
moved to upper New York where he’s taught at since 1971. Cornell University
For more about Robert Morgan, visit the author’s website: http://www.robert-morgan.com