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.

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