Howard Winn – Three Poems

poetHoward Winn’s recent publications — Chaffin Journal, Taj Mahal Review (India), Dalhousie Review, Descant (Canada), Cactus Heart. Vines Leaves Journal, Thin Air. Antigonish Review His novel dealing with the World War Two generation will be published by Harvard Square Editions after editing is completed. His B. A. is from Vassar College. His M. A. is from the Stanford Writing Program. His doctoral work was done at New York University. He is a SUNY faculty member.

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SURFACE TENSION

Staring down through the stream’s surface,
I see the slick rocks,
the green waving water plants,
and the occasional blue-gill searching
for food or another sun fish.
The sun glints along the countertop
of the slowly moving creek
and I strain against the glare
to see what lies at the bottom
Water bugs skate along,
disturbing the flatness
and my vision as I seek
these images in the deep,
and find them distorted
by the rushing water,
the trails of darting insects,
the angle of the sun.
I give up the search for accuracy
and acknowledge the bends and twists
of what I perceive..
We may pretend we can see clearly into the depths
but all we can do is accept
the break-up of surface tension
as we both look into these distortions
and find they are confused with the reflections
that mirror from the surface.

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REMEMBERING ALLEN TATE

He said that all of his poems
spoke of the suffering
that comes from disbelief.
He could not move,
mired in nightmare of mourning;
speechless as stroke victim,
he re-educated his southern brain,
embraced rituals, and fled them.
Friends failed him
or he, they;
but not all went down
with the collapse of the bridge
between brain and feeling.
He held his age for ransom
and, fugitive, sent notes
clipped from old documents
demanding payment,
but did not pick-up the packets
of new, unmarked bills.
Nor did he explain.
He would have embraced America;
but was more at home
where he was not at home.
It was an intellectual matter
and sages are not necessarily popular.
He died in the winter
on the coldest day of the year
when the sun was a disk
of white icein a white sky,
and television weathermen commented on
how unusually far into the old confederacy
the freeze line was penetrating.
He could not have disbelieved
in death.

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INDIAN CAMP OF THE HUDSON VALLEY

There was no reservation,
only houses and shanties
in the wetlands along the Esopus Creek.
It did not belong in Hemingway fiction.
Not good land, it flooded
in the Springs when the run-off
to the river was high.
Dutch burghers and Tory descendants
disdained it, but
it was place to these displaced Delaware.
No one called them Native Americans then.
They had kitchen gardens
tended by women and children.
Men worked the slate mines,
skidding great gray slabs on timbers
to Hudson’s stolen river.
Straining horses and men delivered
the sidewalks of New York
to barges dipping and bowing
in the residual tides of estuary.
Commerce walked like a ghost
on the water
of the Creek and of the River,
slipping away toward Manhattan
and the sea.

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