Three Poems by Robert Chute

BOMB 71 Spring 2000
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Willow Song

Before the equinox, while the river,
locked in ice, for all its life, might
be a glacier destined to never
reach the sea, willow twigs sense shorter nights,
show a bitter yellow against the snow.
A subtle slave rebellion, this ploy
of shaking winter’s chains. Bitter because we know
the taste, remembering the boy’s
first willow whistle: the sap
beneath the slippery bark tart
to his tongue. Cutting groove and notch, he snaps
his jackknife shut, blows one note to start
the year. Dance now to the whistle’s call
before the spring’s leaves fatten for the fall.

Jackson Hot Springs, Oregon

Lichens on still leafless oaks
make a gray foliage against
the seasons’s first green grass
on the hill’s steep slope.

Three mule deer start down
with mincing steps, their ears
improbable antennae
turning nervously, their legs
as thin as puppet sticks.

The water is as blue as old glass
beneath a cloud of sulfurous steam,
runs off over stones chalked
white with sulfates, runs cool
into the bright morning light.

The deer come by ancient custom
to drink the bitter water, pausing
between the bearded oaks,
accepting earth’s flesh, the fresh grass.

Mariculture: The Sea Constrained

What would it be
to be a pilgrim in a pen?

                      Balancing
on a floating walkway
a madonna in baggy yellow oilskins
broadcasts pink shrimp waste
sowing her magic.

                              The tide runs free
through heavy netting, pouches
like Poseidon’s scrotum hung
swelling and pulsing.

                      Fish magically rise
sprout grow filling watery meadows
with orgasmic flashing. A sea god’s
seed spilled sinking fading
like semen stains on dirty sheets

          while sea birds shrill above
and far below seals
like shadowy succubae
shudder the netting then swim away

                      leaving the pilgrims
in their pens awaiting
their final transmigration.

          Where ever you are
at the end may be
the promised land.

Robert Chute, a native of Maine, was born in 1926. He has been awarded the Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from Beloit Poetry Journal and the Maine State chap book award. He is currently working on a series of poems about Russian women combat flyers and another narrative series on an Indian-Colonist fight in 1724.

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Originally published in

BOMB 71, Spring 2000

Featuring interviews with Frank Stella, John Currin, Jim Crace, Frances Kiernan, Brian Boyd, Marsha Norman, and Arto Lindsay. 

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