Josephine Boylan Jacobsen, the doyenne of Maryland poets, has lived most of her life in Baltimore, and from 1971 to 1973 served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, a position that now carries with it the title of American Poet Laureate. Last month, the American Poetry Society presented to her its highest honor, the William Carlos Williams Prize. The most recent of her many books is "In the Crevice of Time: New and Collected Poems" (Johns Hopkins University Press. 224 pages. $29.95). These poems are reprinted with permission from that volume.
Late in the night when I should be asleep
under the city stars in a small room
I read a poet. A poet: not
a versifier. Not a hot-shot
ethic-monger, laying about
him; not a diary of lying
about in cruel cruel beds, crying.
A poet, dangerous and steep.
O God, it peels me, juices me like a press;
this poetry drinks me, eats me, gut and marrow
until I exist in its jester's sorrow,
until my juices feed a savage sight
that runs along the lines, bright
as beasts' eyes. The rubble splays to dust:
city, book, bed, leaving my ears lust
saying like Molly, yes, yes, yes O yes.
Catalogues of seeds flood him
in the churlish gray city weather.
Preposterous gardens, wildly catholic:
anemone, nasturtium, marigold;
roses (white red yellow) bud, uncoil,
loosen to enormous bloom. A trellis
thickens with Heavenly Blue morning
glories, black-hearted poppies burst
their furry stems, sweet alyssum snows
the border. Generous "to a fault"
are Hardy, Lavish, Profligate with Bloom,
Effortless. February's paradise.
Now, house gone for good, and garden with it,
he drops their gorgeous prophecies unopened
into trash. Not the first garden lost,
he tells himself. But all the thousand flowers
that thrust and widened from his fingers
have changed the earth, the air: bloom, stir,
invisible, busy calling their trampling bees.
The Terrible Naive
birdseed to kittens, dislike arithmetic of
in mirrors; will wrestle,
but only after
your wrists with
with unloaded guns, but when
"I die! I die!"
the dark flood
The Thing about Crows
is, they are hoarse.
When you are hoarse, and shout,
you sound either desperate or ominous.
The crows are not desperate.
I say they are not desperate, but one flapped
desperately, dive-bombed this side, that,
by something tiny, with blue murder
and fury on its side.
It's a gentle day. Foliage shifts
gently in the air, and the buds on roses
puff out, and clouds maneuver and part
and meld in a gentle silence.
Now a crow goes heavily by, pounding
the air. Crows gather, gather, to shout
in their autumnal voices, hoarsely,
at the vulnerable spring.