The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Lex Runciman

What Can and Cannot Be Done

             Cancer is safe in my hands:
It killed my brother – I couldn't stop it.
            Though I protested, voted otherwise,
The war continued: when drafted, I said no.
            And yes, I did and yet do
Love my imperfect country.
            And so in my place, someone else
Was killed or saw how a friend bleeds out,
            Or at the end of a gunsight saw
A stranger's shoulder torn back red and falling.
            Years ago this was. You don’t forget.
The wondering doesn’t stop.

            This day, November dark, yes,
And rainy, then not quite: I walked an hour
            Past many wooden houses. Saw from a bluff
A gray river, a bridge, and thought of Whitman –
            Clouds of the west seen face to face.
Ahead of me, crows flew and alighted,
            Flapped ahead, turned, leaned their beaks
And said what they could say.
            I clicked my tongue, said it's ok, it's ok,
Though I knew they’d not understand any more
           Than that last passenger pigeon, Martha,
Who died in Cincinnati, at 1pm, September first,

           1914, from loneliness only we imagine.
Wary, ready to fly, those crows leaned in,
           And to such rounded air they listened.  




LEX RUNCIMAN has published five books of poems, including The Admirations, which won the Oregon Book Award.  His most recent volume, One Hour That Morning & Other Poems, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2014.  Salt Moon, Rounded Air: Poems 1981-2016 is forthcoming from them in 2017.



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