Timothy Houghton – Two Poems

timTimothy Houghton‘s The Internal Distance (Selected Poems 1989-2012) appeared in a bilingual (Italian/English) edition from the Italian press Hebenon/Mimesis Edizioni in 2015. The translators are Luigi Fontanella (many awards, books, and scholarly articles) and Annalisa Macchia (two poetry collections in Italian). Houghton’s first book, High Bridges, was published by the English press Stride. Other books were published by Orchises Press. Recent publications include Stand, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg Review, Cyphers, and Agenda. He has worked at Yaddo, MacDowell, and Hawthornden Castle. He coordinates birding field trips and does surveys for Audubon in Maryland, USA.

Middle-School Boy


To his eye, the street sign damaged by a shotgun blast
spells his name—he puts the binoculars down
behind the second-floor window. Next time he’ll destroy
the boy shooting baskets across the street, the older kid,
and kill him with quickness, brains,
long jumpers he won’t expect. This room seems tiny
—he thinks of a coiled snake—
even with Saturn dangling from the ceiling. On a dense rock
of dolomite, a trilobite drags time
across a shelf. Mom and dad are no more than quotation marks.
His hands wave on the glass (the kid with the ball
waves back with no idea
what’s in store.) Exultant, he stands higher than bird feeders,
higher than roof gutters, and looks down at power lines
sagging from a pole, going into his home.

Bad Language My Son Hears

He might not be sleeping.
He’s one wall away, but the wall,
feathered with my poems
and spoken shouts, flies to places I don’t know about.
Sometimes I forget
he’s twenty feet away in the dark—I yell shit!
and bang the desk with my fingertips,
angry at keyboard and alphabet,
searching the window’s fretted darkness.
How does he picture my noise, the chaos
that comes with regularity?
Sleeping might be hard. My cat lifts her head
from a bed of drafts on the carpet—so I catch myself, I
whisper, but whispering
is fear, not good for writing,
so I go back to noise, but half volume,
under control, a spray of distant pinwheel sparks
on a holiday, emerging from the dark paint
on his side of the wall.



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