Poem of the Week | July 14, 2014

This week we offer a new poem by Doug Ramspeck. Ramspeck is the author of four poetry books. His most recent collection, Original Bodies, was selected for the Michael Waters Poetry Prize and will be published soon by Southern Indiana Review Press. Two earlier books also received awards: Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include The Kenyon Review, Slate, The Southern Review, and The Georgia Review. He is an associate professor at The Ohio State University at Lima, where he teaches creative writing and directs the Writing Center.
Author’s note:

The front windows of my house in Lima, Ohio, overlook a pond, and now and then my wife and I notice a Great Blue Heron standing motionless in the shallows, waiting patiently for minnows. Once, to discourage the heron from absconding with the last of our small fish, my wife purchased a plastic heron, which was supposed to announce to all others that the territory was occupied; but I remember driving home one evening to see two herons within a few feet of each other, both so fixed in place I couldn’t tell which was plastic and which real.
There is something oddly devotional about the long legs and the silence of a heron as it waits and watches, and perhaps that is how I first began connecting in my thoughts the majestic bird with childhood ponderings about the mobility of prayers. I do know with certainty that, for me, writing poems is often about attempting to discover associations, juxtapositions. How can we understand any one thing, after all, without first understanding every other?




As a child I wondered how prayers,
lifting from a pew,


made their way through stained glass.
Was God perched


in Heaven like a Great Blue Heron,
thin-legged, patient?


And nights I woke to Mother and Father
arguing in the walls,


voices sloshing like sudsy water.
From my window I could watch


the wind like a primitive broom
sweeping through tall grass,


disappearing into darkness
like the blown pupil of an eye.


And by day I watched the divinity
of trees, and heard, on Sundays,


church bells throbbing, making of the air
a great reverberation,


the way I imagined, at age ten or twelve,
sex as something incorporeal, a moon


outside a window or the small skull
and scattering of bones I found


one December morning buried
in the hard mud beside the stream,


defleshed so otherworldly. And I closed
my hands around the hymnal


and envisioned prayers forming a certain
shape, or sleeping in


the hollow of a hickory. Perhaps they came
to love the earth so would not rise,


becoming like horn worms hiding the green
of their bodies amid


my mother’s tomato plants.
And I imagined the moist silage


of breath inside my lungs, waiting there
to emerge, someday, in prayers.