Steve Myers


I suppose, borrowing from Baudelaire, I’d been dreaming “of a rhythmic prose, musical…supple…rugged…,” when I began working in the form a couple years ago. I’d also become particularly interested in prose poems through my reading in practitioner-poets connected by birth to East-Central Europe: Simic, Milosz, the Bosnian poet Semezdin Mehmedinovich, and most of my prose poems to date feature European settings and preoccupations. I like the form for the possibilities it opens up to me, avenues--of strangeness, humor, and a more abstract philosophizing--different from those I normally travel in my open form poems.







The conductor, Swallisch, has lifted his baton, and Zuckerman, the violin soloist, stares down, his bow rosined and tightened, but it’s not yet the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, though the audience knows from the program notes what’s coming: the twelve-tone architecture, folk song, waltz strain, the death of a young girl, and, if performance delivers on what it promises, an after-sense of levitation, like a white gown shimmering in an unlit closet. Outside, winter is the woman we saw in the black shawl, shuffling westbound on Chestnut Street past the boarded storefront, a figure, I’m thinking, that Berg, the composer, would have loved—her poverty, her stubborn pressing forward, the various unstressed gestures of the truly unselfconscious—as he loved motoring the mountains, going nowhere, really, or watching football on t.v., the unscripted Euclidean geometry of four touches, or five, before the striker’s body triggers, as Swallisch tenses now, lifting slightly, and the audience with him, as if we’d arrived, en masse, at a precipice, one instinct to hold back, one to leap toward everything that lies below.



My Father’s People


School had been going well, till then. I could tell a crow from a grackle, which got their attention at the Nature Center. I could spell “chihuahua,” do fractions, knew all about the Aswan Dam, the Mercury astronauts, our two new states. The one poem I could say hung framed in our living room. Reciting it in our fourth grade classroom got me in hot water with that old witch Litwiler; it hadn’t been written by a famous person. That was November, right after my brother didn’t come home.


It was done in crewel, and I’d memorized it all, plus introduction: Worked by Catharine Myers in the 11th year of her age Richland Lancaster County State of Pennsylvania in the year of our Lord 1843

Our life is never
At a stand
“Tis like a fading
Death which is ever
Near at hand
Comes nearer every

And those who now
Are young and gay
Like roses in their
Will very soon be old
And gray
And wither in the

Below the verses were two lambs standing, and on each side a pair of light blue birds kissing, or feeding each other. In the upper center she put two more birds, one east-facing, a second below it, looking west. They were like no bird of Pennsylvania—large and bright red with blue wings and yellow underbellies.


I was practicing my poem the night I saw him. It was still warm but the leaves were gone. Eel-fishing Mill Creek when the moon and mist were on it, I looked up to see him suddenly floating over it, wrapped in his hospital blanket, with his hospital bracelet still on his arm, slowly spinning, and crying, though he was not making the sound of crying, and even drooling a little, like any three-day baby.


Once more means a “zero” in “Following Directions!” My mother was sitting in a rocking chair under a wool blanket, still recovering. I was telling her how Litwiler yelled at me, just trying to get her to stop staring. Then she pointed at the poem. You see the backwards number 4? I think that little girl had something wrong upstairs, she whispered, rocking forward, tapping the side of my head with one finger. Your father’s people.




Steve_Myers.jpgSteve Myers is professor of English at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA. His most recent collection, Memory’s Dog, appeared in Fall 2004 from FootHills Publishing. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from Atlanta Review, The Dark Horse, Ekphrasis, Poetry East, Southern Review, and Sentence, as well as in Common Wealth, an anthology featuring contemporary Pennsylvania poets.