Poem of the Week | August 03, 2015

This week we feature another poem from our new summer Defy issue, 38.2. Doug Ramspeck is the author of five poetry collections, including Original Bodies (2014), published by Southern Indiana Review Press, and winner of the Michael Waters Poetry Prize. Individual poems have appeared in journals that include The Kenyon Review, Slate, The Southern Review, and The Georgia Review. An associate professor at The Ohio State University at Lima, he teaches creative writing and directs The Phillip A. Heath Center for Teaching and Learning.

Author’s note:

As far as we know, we share a human propensity for storytelling across all cultures and times. Even the more primitive parts of our brains want to turn the experiences of our daily lives into story. It is this communal quality, this shared and plural experience, I am hoping to explore in “Black Flowers.” Yes, our individual lives differ from the lives of others in the world, but they are also very much the same. We read stories from people long dead or from distant geographies and cultures, and recognize them at once as our own. I would love, as a poet, to write poems that are about us all, and in this case I am trying to do that with old men. I am sixty-one myself, which—or so my twenty-five-year-old daughter would point out—places me clearly as a part of that tribe.


Black Flowers

The old men are dreaming of black flowers. They are springing from the earth, down in the oldest part of the woods, or growing from the skin of the trees. And then, by day, the men rise from bed and make their way onto the back porch. It is here where wind unfurls its cloak, undressing the earth, tousling the grass. The men have their memories as hymnals, but still the crows make blossoms of their wings, and oar out above the yard, speaking in tongues. Sometimes grandchildren come to visit, and the old men hold the young ones in their laps and speak of how, in August, dust can swirl up in a field until it almost seems to form a human shape. Occasionally the wives will sit for a few moments with their husbands, mostly in silence, the straight-edged razor of moon slicing into the empty body of the sky. But mostly the men have the smoke of the clouds to keep them company, clouds that turn white by day, to blood at dusk, to ash and then black flowers in the dark.