Pottering about online, I came across a new poet I’d never heard of but whose work I instantly admired. His name is Kevin Prufer and he has several collections of poetry published, his latest in 2008 entitled National Anthem. Here’s a couple of his poems:
THE LUCKY CRIMINALS
We are not equal to our criminals. A raftful floats by every day,
dainty blue canopies flaring in the breeze. Cigarettes dangling
from downturned mouths, eyes screwed to the shore—
the criminals are slim and beautiful, draped
in their lawnchairs so their fingers leave trails in the river water.
They are sentimental and lean, shirtless and droop-eyed.
Oh to dig my tired toes into the soft mud of the bank,
the pickpocket says. To drop coins in the river and retrieve them,
to retrieve all the coins that have ever been dropped in the river.
The others are silent, smoke leaking from their mouths. Wishes
are everything to criminals, and the burl of black clouds over the trees
is unimportant. My father was buried with a mouthful
of stolen gems, the con-man replies, swiping his guitar. I dug
one hundred holes in the yard before I found them. The black clouds
curl into mouths that rustle the trees. Around their feet,
fifteen bags of coins. The hacker picks his golden teeth, the falsely accused
stares hungrily to our shore. Our women are in love with criminals.
They have the soft glow of lamplight on pavement on clear nights after rain.
How we envy criminal ambition. We are strung like pearls
on the weedy shore, white-faced and furious as they pass.
Our dinner burns, our children cry, and the wind cools
as the storm sweep over. Justice, justice, we call to them.
But the long-fingered criminals in their gorgeous swimsuits,
the lawless with their guns draped over their chairs, the shifty-eyed
and doomed with bare chests, the exciting—they’ll never notice us.
THE ASTRONOMER’S DREAM
The sky fell into the telescope—a tumble, then a dying
gasp. I sighed and scraped my toe on the observatory floor,
twisted the straps that held my glasses on, smiled.
The sky was a zero, an empty shell. When the data
stopped, the computer was a wreckage
of frozen points of light, confounded. The printer died
so I heard my breaths now loud as the whirr
of wheels that turned when I set the telescope
on a new and empty quadrant. Freedom, I thought,
my fingers at the soft focus. Simple and quiet.
All my life the stars were angry little sighs,
needle-pricks of breath. The sky coughed their light over me
so I’d grown accustomed and set my nights by them.
What more was there to say? I screwed the lens caps back
to bottle the starlight in. I shut the lamps
and closed the door behind me. The night was a wonder
of shadowless trees, a giant thrall—a wheeze from the dome
where the sky now was, then nothing at all.