Ron Houchin lives on the banks of the Ohio River across from his hometown Huntington, West Virginia. For thirty years he taught public school. He has seven books of poetry and one of short stories. His latest book, THE MAN WHO SAWS US IN HALF, was awarded the 2013 Weatherford Award for poetry. A new book, PLANET OF THE BEST LOVE SONGS is due out from Salmon Publishing in the fall.
Everybody Hides a Super Power
Jumping the clothesline of my sister’s
flapping diapers, no one around, I keep
on swimming. Dreamy how air turns
to liquid when I’m alone, spread my arms
as if to hug the horizon then leap forward.
On the roof, I hide behind the chimney,
watching Grandma take down clean-smelling
clothes, Mr. Belcher mow his hay, crows
lifting from the field ahead of his tractor,
and I wonder, do birds of all feather dream
of standing on solid ground, never having to fly
away from tractors, cars, cats? I woke tonight,
believing everybody hides the same secret
in sleep. I’d dreamt of not flying, better
than anything, just walking night air.
The Original Album
(for Marianne Worthington)
No one knows how many of the oldest mountain
songs began with a sound like a table leg scooted over
a stone floor, the oldest words scratched in measures
by claw or rock or fang or lead.
Almost lost, all the chants and curses, the ur-texts
of uncertainty and anger— the formulae for unforgettable
murther and pining remain in their tumbling rhythm.
As if no such thing as a bad song existed,
only worse and worst ones, everything
ever wished for in the boiling bone marrow of night
is recorded under disguise of stars,
the tones of torment echoing in new place.
It makes me sad that the old cry is gone from words,
though nothing’s gone missing from the compact,
nothing of the fierce readiness of necessity
to begin or end in a moment of life.
Flowers at Night
Like refugees under a dark awning waiting
for the slow rescue train, these four geraniums,
I think, huddle their redness against the drabness of night.
My walk to this abandoned house at street’s end
uneventful, stifling air prevents everything
from wanting touch. Silk petals and rough sepals,
more contact than my hand could bear. Nothing
our here is like me nor I it, and my house a tight belt
I had to shed. The clouds become heavy cushions
shoved into the face of everything trying to breathe.
Good night, bright strangers, I love that you assail
the darkness we are all trapped in as if light were imminent.
The thing about these ruins is not the half arch
of two doorways, the crumbling remains
of walls, or the round tower and moldering
top, but the parts gone, fallen into the river,
carried off by long-dead townsmen, lost
in grass and night glow, those parts hinted
at, emphasized by absence. Magpies aren’t
landing on window ledges for the stone
their feet can’t find. If you and I could go
back to the busy room where we started,
its atmosphere of home, its pages of folded
curtains, then stand staring up at these cold walls,
the hawk of moonlight might sell us
our shadows back or convince us our eyes,
at home in the galaxy, nakedly see beyond
to some form of completion the air holds.