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Bruce Willard: California Poets Part 1, Three Poems

Bruce Willard

August 27th, 2020

California Poets: Part I

Bruce Willard

Three Poems


After the business of dying was done. After the last document was signed. After the music of friends was risen from church to a topless October sky and decomposition left just the colors of fall to burn like small flags in the trees, I learned to love what is incomplete: the wood thrush working on her song of flight tonight, the moon chasing the sun around the circle of sky. Work indistinguishable from joy. Water in a fountain cycling as it seeks a way of being heard. Because grace is nothing when silence calls its name.


My grandfather was an engineer. Collected tolls on bridges at the Jersey shore. A quarter for each crossing Longport to Seaview Ocean City to Strathmere. My Scottish grandfather who cussed all ‘good-for-nuthin’ immigrants and edged both sides of his two-step lawn with a long-handled roller-blade where grass shouldered concrete. Who kept the fence along the alley painted and clear of poison. My grandfather, who collected coins each day and sat on the screen porch summer evenings with a can of Iron City and a tin of Rold Gold in the quiet company of an immigrant wife counting the days as the world passed through.


At a gate in Salt Lake City airport, I watched a hardware salesman, his bag like a pilot’s case, the kind with maps of every airport he’d ever passed through. His hands were full of receipts and papers, between his legs a cup of coffee, no top. How he strained to still his knees, keep the shaky liquid balanced each time the connected seats were rocked. His look of resignation when goodness overflowed to his trousers, darkening his crotch. The sound he made like a hinge on a door that could not be closed.

Author Bio:

Bruce Willard’s poems have appeared in AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cortland Review, Harvard Review, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, Salamander and other journals as well as on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac. He has published 2 collections of poems, Holding Ground (2013) and Violent Blues (2016); both published by Four Way Books. His 3rd collection, In Light of Stars, is due out from Four Way Books in 2021. More information is available on the website Willard lives in Maine, Colorado and California.


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