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Dan Masterson


Her son's back is leather; wet,
It becomes her father's
Russet brown, tanned by field weather
However it happened to turn;
It is the Seneca skin he kept hidden in cloth,
Like something passed on in shame.

For half her life, she has failed
To bring him back through her son; and again
She kneels at the hill of stones, watching
The boy in the pond below:

He is unaware of the workshirt she sees
Come up from the grave
To fit itself to his shoulders,
Giving itself to water, as his arms pump
Against stalks, cutting a path
Toward the opposite shore, long muscles,
Almost a man's, pacing themselves,
As the back goes bare, glistening with labor.

He comes up from water, trailing
A branch half his height, and slashes
The weeds as though they were there
Waiting to be harvested; her lips move,
Unseen, and he is gone,
Into the thicket, her hand near, stretched
Across the pond, selecting a tree
For its strength.

He climbs a clearing limb, and walks
Until it bends, filling his lungs
With sunlight, his shadow
Laid like cloth on the pond; he folds
Himself in half, and enters without sound,
Surfacing a long way from shore,
His gaunt face turning for air,
Its features more like her father's
Than before.

He will come with grain dripping off him
Like water, words tumbling out, a plea
To go with him to see the world he's found;
And she will go,
Always she will go, to follow his hands
And something akin to that other voice
Giving names to things growing at his feet:

The adder's-tongue and bloodroot, trailing
Arbutus, and ahead, bunch berries looking
Like fallen dogwoods, lady slippers
Near pulpits, Indian pipes white
Against the peat moss floor
Of an earlier spring
When her father found arrowheads and clover
In the open fields of her hidden life.

from Poetry Miscellany


Dan Masterson's fourth collection, his New and Selected, All Things, Seen and Unseen, was released by The University of Arkansas Press in 1997. In 2006, Syracuse University assumed stewardship of "The Dan Masterson Papers" for its Special Collections Research Center. In 2009, he was named the first Poet Laureate of Rockland County, New York, for a two-year term. He has since been reappointed for an additional term. His work has appeared in an eclectic array of publications, including: Poetry, Hotel Amerika, Esquire, The New Yorker, Paris Review, London Magazine, New York Quarterly, as well as The Ontario, Sewanee, Paris, Southern, Hudson, Yale, Gettysburg, Massachusetts, New Orleans, and Georgia Reviews. He was elected to membership in Pen International in 1986, and is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, the Bullis Poetry Award, a Borestone Prize, and The CCLM Fels Award. He is the founding editor of the online Enskyment Poetry Anthology.

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Speechless Spring 2011
Copyright 2011 Published by
Tebot Bach