2013 Poetry Month #12 – John Haines

I had hoped to showcase poetry each day for National Poetry Month, but other obligations diverted my attention and time.  For the last day of April, I have chosen poetry from John Haines – a writer whose work and style, along with his time living in Alaska, really influenced and changed my own style, and in some ways, paid the foundation for a change of direction in my own life.

I was introduced to John Haines in a poetry class I took at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, by Thomas R Smith.  For that, I will forever be indebted to him.

These selections from from the collection “The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer”, published by Graywolf Press in 1993.


I went to the edge of the wood
in the color of evening,
and rubbed with a piece of horn
against a tree,
believing the great, dark moose
would come, his eyes
on fire with the moon.

I fell asleep in an old white tent.
The October moon rose,
and down a wide, frozen stream
the moose came roaring,
hoarse with rage and desire.

I awoke and stood in the cold
as he slowly circled the camp.
His horns exploded in the brush
with dry trees cracking
and falling; his nostrils flared
as swollen-necked, smelling
of challenge, he stalked by me.

I called him back, and he came
and stood in the shadow
not far away, and gently rubbed
his horns against icy willows.
I heard him breathing softly.
Then with a faint sigh of warning
soundlessly he walked away.

I stood there in the moonlight,
and the darkness and silence
surged back, flowing around me,
full of a wild enchantment,
as though a god had spoken.

Denali Road

By the Denali road, facing
north, a battered chair
in which nothing but the wind
was sitting.
And farther on
toward evening, an old man
with a vague smile,
his rifle rusting in his arms.

The Rain Glass

A winter morning, and the sea
breaks on the harbor wall.

Rain moves up the lonely street
under swaying wires,
blowing across the empty playground;
the air smells
of metal, kelp, and tar.

I hear the thrashing of leaves
against these windows;
the house is cold,
but the shifting glare of a fire
shines on wet asphalt.

Chairs, forms of silent people;
faces blurred in the clouding
of many small mirrors.

I wait in the doorway of a room
with grey walls and distant pictures.

2 thoughts on “2013 Poetry Month #12 – John Haines

  1. WOW! That is deep and atmospheric poetry, no rhyme, no conclusion something always just hinted at , fabulous I shall have to look him up! Thank you for sharing. 😉

    • You are very welcome. My favorite quote is form a collection of essays by John Haines –
      “We speak of nature, of the natural world, as if that were something distinct from ourselves and the social world we appear to have made, seldom noticing that we are in nature and never out of it…” – John Haines, “Fables and Distances”

Leave a Reply