Howard Winn’s fiction and poetry, has been published recently by such journals as Dalhousie Review, Taj Mahal Review (India), The Long Story, Cold Mountain Review, Antigonish Review, New Verse News, Chaffin Review, Thin Air Literary Journal, and Futures Trading Literary Journal. His B. A. is from Vassar College. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University His doctoral work was done at N. Y. U. He has been a social worker in California and currently is a faculty member of SUNY as Professor of English.
IF WORDSWORTH COULD HAVE MET KEATS
Buck up, boy,
you will see things differently when you are old.
But I won’t be old
because I am dying young.
Writ in water, I suppose,
But I will not live long enough
I will live too long to remember
I would last long enough
to become significant and will not.
I will matter in Cockermouth
and in literary history.
My grave should be without my name
but my friends will not allow it.
My friends will write
and become as important as me.
I suppose people will find my grave
and place daisies on it.
My view will be of climbing roses
blue lake water, and mountains.
My life’s blood will fill my nose
and my mouth will cough up my lungs.
I will become elderly, forgetting my beloved sister,
and turn straight-laced and formal.
Which is the worst fate?
TEACHING THE YOUNG
The young are certain of speech.
Grown old, I teach
questions and distrust,
upsetting them as I must.
A poem unsettles what stands
when children raise their hands
to speak their feelings gone awry.
To understand they try
to feel without thinking,
as if it were easy as drinking
the waters of forgetting
from Lethe without regretting.
The poet’s only bliss
is to bring them questioning to this —
learn that nothing is clearly certain
until we draw aside the holy curtain.
Truth is what evidence informs us,
not myth, religion, and all that fuss
concerned with blinding faith,
unquestioning of that ghostly wraith.
FOR THE BEST
Chained to an ill husband
that she loved,
they moved from the hilltop home
she also loved
to be nearer to the medical help
his heart would demand they knew,
and that knowledge was also another chain.
For a dozen years they lived
in an apartment with 911 at hand
and then…. it was for the best,
but it never really is.
She moved to a tower
reserved for the old,
with views of stores at its foot
and mountains across the river,
and lived there with their furniture
that said … it was for the best.
Haunted, she resided alone with ghosts
from her other life
until she was found by a cleaning woman
crumpled on the bedroom floor.
Carried to a hospital,
she refused visitors other than her daughters.
She did not want to be seen or pitied
for being less than she had always been.
I have been her friend for fifty-five years
someone said, and now that is over.
There is a hole in my life.
But who would want to live that way?
For the best, she said,
but it never really is.