Charles Harper Poems Graphic
Sorting Things Out
Here are a few samples selected from the eighty-nine poems in this volume.  If you decide to order this book, click the email address below.  Be sure to include the following in your message:  (1) title of book being ordered, (2) your full name and mailing address.

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Grandfather Clock
I watch you,                                          
dark and beautiful as the walnut
from which you’re milled,
woo tomorrow into yesterday
and lure it back again

Your brass weights drop
and your pendulum swings
another instant
into memory

Beat by beat
your hands circle,
pointing to the end
of this story

Impassively your gears turn
through the revolutions
of our time
marked by the brief chiming
of your hours

I enter
a timeless instant,
your pendulum stopped
at the top of its arc

before it swings back,
a moment
dense with what has been –
brimming with what shall be
How brash, bold, naïve!
How romantic
to make those promises.
We were young and innocent
in the ways of the world,
let alone the ways of love –
although we did not think so.

How could we have known then
that after all these years
we would still love each other?

Was it good luck?
Were we wiser than our years?
Or was it bred in the bone
back many generations
that promises are for keeping –
especially promises of love?
Something there is
in the universe
that prefers small.

Or, so it seems today
at this tidal marsh
where I pause

to be amazed
by a bug
in flight.

It glistens
electric blue
and phosphorescent green

under the spot-light
of July sun
where it puts on a show

of such acrobatic speed,
swoops and swings
that it warrants applause –

not alone for its dexterity,
for its ancestry as well.
Can you believe a lineage

of 300,000,000 years!
Whatever wiped out the dinosaurs
missed these fleet acrobats,

as did the great Black Plague
and the karma
that brings down empires.
Easily distracted
from my work –
this morning
it is an ordinary gray squirrel
who makes me put down my pencil

High in the pitch pine
outside my study window
he sits eye-level with me,
barely twenty feet away.
He stares.  I stare back

Consider this possibility,
I am distracting this small creature
from his work
gathering stores of seed and acorn
against winter’s sure coming

or perhaps
distraction is his proper work
and mine, in this moment,
as we each try to look into another’s world,
proximate, intriguing, veiled

and beyond our reach –
like Palestine looming large
in today’s dark headlines
as did Baghdad and Darfur
the day before

Where in our stunning world
I wonder
is a small furry creature
that might distract warriors
from their sad work?
"I don't mind dying –
But I'd hate to die all alone"
Langston Hughes
My death I do not wish, but do not fear.
The later, lovely seasons now hold sway.
Companions on my journey, gather near.

From earliest memory it’s been clear
we walk this mortal path with feet of clay.
My death I do not wish, but do not fear.

Life's race has now been run with those held dear –
the pain, the bliss, the plodding middle days.
Companions on my journey, gather near.

Regrets, of course, I have.  This pain I bear,
yet still delight in love and work and play.
My death I do not wish, but do not fear.

Youth’s fondest hopes for justice are not here.
Our dreams still call us to a better day.
Companions on my journey, gather near.

I’ve loved and been loved all these bounding years,
not perfectly, but well enough, I’d say.
My death I do not wish, but do not fear.
Companions on my journey, gather near.
Shimmering Day
What shall be done within this shimmering day
given by wind and snow, the blinding snow
driven against this window where I stay
just inches from December’s stunning blow
of  mercy slant, holding in check the season’s
bleakness of leafless trees and lifeless flowers?
Mounding drifts besiege the door.  Good reason
to stay within and wile away the hours,
cozy by the cloistered fire that warms
this room, and rising on the chimney draft
in dance of flame and smoke, calls forth free-form
reverie of  unthought thoughts by which we craft
our lives and touch the shadowed gods within
who hold us steady in fierce Advent winds.
Rogue Wave
For Margaret and Robert Croteau
Died September 20, 1999, Schoodic Point, Maine
from this same rock
on which I stand
a rogue wave
swept you to your death

After the terror
I wonder
if your dying
was beautiful
and vast

like the sea
that now lifts and falls
against this rock
and calls my wondering
further than it can go

out across dark vistas
glistening in the morning sun?
And I wonder
at how beauty and death
ride together
on the same terrible wave
A something so transporting bright
Emily Dickinson
You elude me

like the holy presence
of an ancient tribe
that will not write your name
or speak it,

like the music
in his head
that will not flow
through Mozart’s pen,

like the light
that dances
in Van Gogh’s brush
but on the canvass dims.

Sometimes in the morning sun
of early May
you tremble
on the dogwood blooms

lifted high
above their limbs
by sudden rushing
wind --

and then are gone.
Poetry by Charles H. Harper
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