featuring Marc Harshman

Please check out Change Seven’s interview with Marc here.


There were too many days of heavy weather
that rotted the beans and delayed the wheat.
I stood on tiptoe to see over Mother’s tether.
Each year too lean and fast; heart and mind yet to meet.

The fly in the ointment grew oversized
so I took the far road, through the fog,
heard the dying, saw the closing of the eyes.
And so wore out the rust of time.  All the wild dogs

in hell couldn’t run as I did, and over the cliff
I leapt ecstatic into the disappearing air.
Promised nothing but lies to survive but, if
I could, I’d turn the odds my way, become heir

to the last luck of the flowers, the seed,
then sleep to pillow dreams and break free.

To the west were cornfields dusty and brittle
	as sheet music left too long 
	in the sun of the sanctuary.
The birds can not sing it without breaking
	off bits of light to shatter
	in the blue air hung hard above them.
In town the deserted library has opened
	its doors and in pour memories
	from all the forgotten pages,
	the ones having nothing 
	to do with plot but without which
	there’d have been no verisimilitude
	upon which to plan our escape. 
It was a courtesy, of course, 
that the red-eyed clerk knew
our need to neck behind the stacks, 
to slide our wet fingers along the shelves
and so leave a trace for those 
like us needing a path out
of the mysteries of abandonment.
Later, we were able to climb the bean stalk
	and survey the leavings of light,
	watch the last birds pecking at the brilliance
	littering the un-harvested fields.
Somewhere a new day was hiding, somewhere
	was an old story wanted to help us home by flashlight
	and the single jewel from that rejected hymn
	we began to think was the one	
	might refract the light would set the fire.	

The sky is condensed to wind, to air, 
to a rush-roar on the ear 
as I climb 
out of the thick green 
	of the Cherry River valley.
From the noise of the future 
	I’ve traveled, up from Sam Black Church 
	to Leivasy to Nettie to here, 
by luck and by motor,
	by foot and by grace I have come
	to here to hear, and see.

To see . . . from kingdom come 
to forever now,
	from Black Mountain and Cranberry to Caesar Mountain.
And Caesar Augustus and all 
his warriors never saw the like of these:
	Red Lick and Viney, Cheat and Kennison.

Cloud-green and shadowed purple, the mountains drift
	across the summer afternoon,
	here and there fractured with bright, ruined castles
	of stone crags and caprocks, 
from sand shoals lapped by the Silurian oceans
	become sandstone and quartzite.

Chirrup and slow-sliding whistles, cough and scream, the birds
	are busy with gossip and discovery, with governance and lust,
	blue-headed vireos, black-throated green warblers, redstarts, 
	and the hawks’ Olympic skating duet on the updrafts.

The others, the bobcat, bear, weasel and porcupine 
you’ll not likely see unless 
	you lose yourself 
in the blueberry fields, the huckleberry barrens.
Still, they’ll find you more often than not.

The world will go on without me but for these few moments I am
	sitting on top of the world, a simple summer’s day, away
	from the busy rush of roads, the scrolling of screens, 
	almost off the map, almost heaven, almost where
	sky meets eternity, and eternity almost whispers
	its secrets in this teasing kiss of a breeze.

Almost.  		Almost.		Almost.

Note: “Almost” was used by the River House community arts organization based in Capon Bridge, WV as the starting point for an epistolary celebration titled Passages, June, 2021 and the line “where sky meets eternity” was subsequently used as the title for a documentary film of the same title by Richard Anderson.

A fall of blossom in a sudden breeze
	and, like snow shaken from a limb,
	you shiver with what you’ve carried
	here from the headlines 
and bow your head.
You know you should know better.

The river sluices its cold way down the mountain
	between cracked, gray panels of stone,
	the canyon deafening with its mad roar.
The loneliness here moves the earth below you
	and you grab hold the slenderest branch,
	a whippet of cherry, and suddenly
	the whole forest is holding you up.
But, you knew this, didn’t you?   

On your knees amid the clutter of your study,
	a crucifix on one wall, the Stones’ Hot Lips
	on another, and a window framing
	the pink haze of maples eager
	to get on with the business of spring.
Your eyes fill with something neither sad nor 
            joyous, something like thanksgiving
            that someone, call Her or Him, God
            or not, but you know 
there is this great listening 
gathered all around you.  

Even as the dark mysteries of the day
assail your locked doors, your neighborhood,
your world, there is this listening much like
Julian in her cell centuries ago
hearing that convincing voice
and knowing that all will be 
out of our hands but well 
enough, and more
to see us to the other side 
be that eternity, next year, 
or simply this next second,
the one where we hear 
another’s heart beat 
just like ours.

Note:  “Well Enough,” with the title, “Knowing in a Time of Fear” appeared in an online exhibition of poetry and art posted by St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, VA
in the spring of 2020.  The echo of “all be well” from Julian of Norwich’s [1343-1416] famous lines is intentional in the last stanza, words used also by T.S. Eliot in the final stanza of the “Little Gidding” section of THE FOUR QUARTETS.

Julian of Norwich:  
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

Marc Harshman’s Woman in Red Anorak, winner of the Blue Lynx Prize, was published in 2018 by Lynx House Press. His fourteenth children’s book, Fallingwater, co-authored by Anna Smucker, was published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan. He is co-winner of the 2019 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and his poem, Dispatch from the Mountain State, was printed in the 2020 Thanksgiving edition of the New York Times. Harshman’s poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, University of Iowa, University.