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Tag: Jeffrey Harrison

Naïve Roofscape


Beyond the French doors leading out

to this fourth-floor rental’s balcony, open sky

above a pre-Cubist arrangement of

ochre walls, blue-gray shutters both open

and closed, and terra cotta roofs—all studded

with innumerable accessories and doodads:

small chimneys gathered in familial groups

and wearing metal caps, a Celtic cross

and two stone urns atop the church;

a gold ball below a flag-like weathervane

at the apex of a pyramidal tower,

the pointy, floppy tops of three cypresses

projecting up like elf hats; satellite dishes,

the skeletal metal wings of TV antennas,

and, best of all, the shiny cylindrical

vents whose tops, spinning like pinwheels,

flash festively with sunlight—all these

conduits and valves and instruments

that in one way or another mediate

between worlds, between a sky saturated

with sunlight and the streets below, noisy

with the cries of children on their way to school

and the clang of workers in blue jumpsuits

assembling scaffolding against the wall

opposite, keeping it all from falling apart.

from Between LakesFind more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.

Lost Photograph

I wish I knew what happened to the photograph

of my father and me that my younger brother took

when we were in our twenties, maybe

still in college, home for Thanksgiving.

We were helping our father cut firewood,

a ritual since we were boys, though back then

we didn’t do much more than tag along.

Maybe Dad and I were already out in the woods,

and Jeremy was catching up,

listening for the chainsaw to find us.

Maybe we were gathering the logs

and loading them into the back of the Jeep

as he approached with his camera,

thinking he’d surprise us—

but Dad and I spontaneously turned

and in unison gave him the finger

with our hands encumbered by work gloves

just at the instant he snapped the shutter.

My brother printed the photo and gave it to me,

a black-and-white five-by-seven—

too big for an album, and never framed.

I haven’t seen that photograph in years.

I’ve looked for it but can’t find it anywhere.

Maybe some day I’ll open a book

and it will fall out, surprising me once more

in the way it catches my father and me

united in a moment of buffoonery,

our smiles showing through our phony glares.

from Between Lakes
Find more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison

Used with the permission of Four Way Books.

Beach Glass

“Absent one, how I miss you on this shore

that conjures you and fades . . . ”

—Eugenio Montale

A wall topped with shards of broken bottles

runs along the lane that winds up the hill

to this house above the Ligurian Sea

not far from where the great poet lived.

One of his lizards visits my balcony.

And that mysterious “you” of his,

during my time here, has become you.

I’ve looked for you among the lemon trees,

in waves flashing through canopies of pines,

in upper windows fluttering with sheets,

and on a small beach below rocky cliffs,

its gray stones crisscrossed with white lines.

And there I found these tiny, glinting beads

of colored glass hidden among the pebbles—

like drops of honey, and some between, the color

of your eyes, and two or three the pale blue

of inlets where foam has clouded the water.

from Between Lakes
Find more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison

Used with the permission of Four Way Books.


Christopher and Helen, our new expatriate friends,

meet us at their favorite winery

where they fill their plastic jerry cans from hoses

exactly like the ones at gas stations,

as though they’re planning to go back home to Aix

and treat their lawnmower to a nice red.

Instead, they take us in their forest green Peugeot

to the home of their old friend Brigitte

in a village at the foot of Mont Ventoux—

actually, not a village, Brigitte corrects me,

but “un hameau,” a hamlet. The French

are exacting about such distinctions, though Brigitte

has a kind, mischievous smile. Back in the car,

we tear along a series of rutted, stony roads

that web the mountainside, with Brigitte

directing Christopher, “à droite, à gauche, encore à gauche,”

until we come to a grove of pines, cedars, and oaks,

where she says the mushrooms are hidden.

We fan out under the trees, searching the slope,

while Brigitte, looking elfin in her orange hoodie,

waves a stick like a wand, pokes at the dried pine needles

or the dead leaves under wild boxwood bushes,

and sings, “I think there are some over here,”

like a mother leading her toddlers toward Easter eggs.

We laugh and follow after her, cutting the stems

with a tarnished knife she lends us, warning

“Faites attention,” because the blade is sharp.

And gradually we fill our plastic shopping bags

with gnarled orange caps, stained green,

which, much later, back in the States, I learn

are called Lactarius deliciosus or

orange-latex milky, like a shade of paint,

the field guide commenting “edible, although

not as good as the name deliciosus suggests”—

but we already suspect that (they look awful),

and we’ll later unload most of ours on

Christopher and Helen who clearly think of them

as a delicacy . . . but right now we’re

just hunting for them among the sunspots

on the forest floor, filling our bags,

and calling through the trees, the whole afternoon

gathering into the giddy moment

that Brigitte keeps calling us back to.

from Between Lakes
Find more by Jeffrey Harrison at the library

Copyright © 2020 Jeffrey Harrison

Used with the permission of Four Way Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.