Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Two Poems by Robert Morgan

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 
love ballads.

[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.

Jar Fly

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 American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from
the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. Born in Hendersonville, North Carolina (where he’d collected cicadas, himself, as a boy), he later moved to upper New York where he’s taught at Cornell University since 1971. 

For more about Robert Morgan, visit the author’s website: http://www.robert-morgan.com


  1. jean.shelby42@gmail.comSeptember 5, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    When I heard the cicada followed by Morgan’s spot-on description – “more a seethe than song” “bone dry and juicy” “. . . rattlesnakes . . . “ – it blew me away. Subtle yet powerful poems and video.

  2. Thank you, Jean. While making the video, I enjoyed the cicada sound-to-poem sequence for the reasons you suggest.

  3. The words and the images mingle to tell a tale that exhibits the human ability to express, in various ways, one’s wonder, perceptions, reactions and observations in revealing, insightful creations of what most people probably prefer ignoring, as in the Brownfield.

    And Jar Fly, through Robert Morgan’s words (and the visual/sounds) the memories flow and this creature’s particular characteristics are enhanced and redirect us to appreciate the insect and the human species in a unique relationship.

    The lighting and editing of the Suzanne’s art, in both pieces, work excellently with the poems to expand one’s relationships in a transformational journey .

  4. rayhillhouse80@gmail.comSeptember 13, 2015 at 6:21 PM

    I love this merging of Morgan's sound-driven poetry with stunning images. Top notch.

  5. Thanks for your responses. I'm interested in the comparison of the video to a journey or a “tale,” suggesting the passing of time (which I usually associate with music or long narratives). And to be sure, the poems have a deep inner "music" -- "sound-driven" is an apt way to describe them.