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Rick Stansberger: Autumn Comes to Wood County, Ohio
Part of the PoetryCircle Showcase series.
  • Autumn Comes to Wood County, Ohio
    for James Wright


    the ghosts

    of corn


    Breathing Lessons: An American History

    Slightly oxygen deprived,
    we waited for Jesus
    beneath reefs of smoke from the mills.

    He never did show
    so we lit up a jay
    and passed it around --
    righteous weed.

    Then the mills
    fell to shadow
    and stores downtown
    caught fire for insurance.

    A little breathing space
    for the town fathers.

    We slid around
    in air made thick
    with potato chip grease,

    service industries
    our salvation,
    the Gospel According
    to Reagan.

    Finally a couple of us
    took off Out West,
    and aside from dust storms
    and forest fires, why

    a man can breathe
    right nicely out here


    Loving a Town

    Maddening how it burgerkings
    and mickeydees you on the highway in,

    jesussaves and bustedtrucks you
    on the highway out,

    and between the two, a wrestle of word
    over everything on the agenda,

    and some that aren't,
    leaving ravens in the morning

    to peck the night’s debate.
    There are too many heads

    to bang together,
    and even if I did, it wouldn’t make them

    stop and feel the mountains' mass
    or watch the turning stars.

    If I could I’d pass a law:
    no saying anything

    less concrete than jackrabbit.
    We’d be forced to live in the Why.

    Oh my.

    But scrimmage over the microphone
    is so many people deep

    everyone demanding
    the last word.

    Clouds go lonely.
    Flowers parlay among themselves.

    Some few listen. Stop their cars
    when lightning splits rainbow.

    That's my party affiliation now.


    October Surprise

    You get used to daily crash,
    and the six hours of nothing
    roaring over spiked horizon
    slams against all the rubber
    buffers you've set up and nearly
    bounces away before you grab.

    To say it becomes a winged horse,
    you hanging onto Poetry's tail,
    denies your basement office
    and the copper leaves that skate blue October
    over eye level. But still.

    But still.

    The first poem of the day is not
    the surprise, nor the second,
    nor the bout of computer assisted
    experimentation (Let's make us
    an Ashbery), no, it's the
    to-do list still doing like gnats
    in a sunbeam and you are able to say
    to the sunbeam let it be.

    This could get dangerous.

    You always thought
    you could disappear into poetry
    leaving behind a pile of words
    and now you don't care?

    You don't care.

    If they want you so bad,
    Let them follow you there.


    Left Behind
    A Stark Poem

    Dickhardt's feet
    get cold in September,
    stay that way

    till May. Socks
    don't help. Booze
    doesn't either.

    The School Teacher
    had him soaking in cayenne.
    That stung, but didn't warm.

    It's the colors,
    he finally figured out --
    the grey, white, and brown,

    the goddamn eternal
    Midwest winter,
    and my feet, he said

    to the School Teacher,
    my feet just leave
    until it’s green.


    Granny March

    They named her
    April May June March,
    and she always believed
    in a smart-ass God.

    She grew up
    in West By God Virginia
    when flower-sack dresses
    were OK,

    and sat sourly on that porch
    in Ohio after her
    raucous tribe of
    grandbabies brought her there.

    "Just dogs and cats"
    she said as she died,
    referring to the local lack
    of bobcats, bears,
    muskrats, turkey buzzards
    and coons.

    The grandbabies
    didn't hear.
    They were playing horseshoes drunk
    in the back yard.



    What would it be like
    to pull autumn over your head
    and awake smelling spring


    Perpetual Motion

    The nineteen-forties:
    America was at war
    and the country's great minds
    were gathered in protected
    reservations under the watchful
    eyes of the Army and the FBI.

    But a few lone stragglers,
    holdovers from a gentler time,
    toiled in their barns and garages
    throughout the land.

    "Yeah, I'm still inventin'"
    said an 86-year old John Summers
    to a cub reporter
    from the Akron Beacon-Journal,

    and showed him around the rooms
    of the third floor
    of his daughter's house
    where whirred and ticked
    the blades, springs, levers, and wires
    of his latest work.

    The reporter had to stretch his
    vocabulary to describe the thing,
    and John didn't bother
    to tell the boy
    he knew there was no such beast
    as perpetual motion,
    but that he was actually getting voltage
    from the random air currents
    a big house generates,
    and that the machine was so sprawly
    because the currents shifted
    with the seasons and the time of day.

    So the cub
    got his six column inches
    of quaint nostalgia
    and John got a car battery ready to go,
    though it was never used
    because John died,
    a dog slid into the apparatus,
    and nobody in the family
    had ever understood what it was for.


    Protect Me from Harmful Utterance

    Both curves of the arch
    rise to a point:
    praying hands.

    The arches stand
    much longer
    than human resolve.

    Surprising how much
    can fit within them.

    Her Second Year Dead

    and still I see her
    as Beethoven

    same tumbling hair
    same angry scowl

    alone with the music
    in her head.
  1. Isabelle M. Chasse
    I love Bear the  most.  I have to digest it all.  I could fall into this group of poems and not come out until Spring myself.  All so good.
  2. Marian Veverka
    We share the same midwest - you captured it!  Love the bear who "Pulled Autumn over his head"
  3. Lyta
    Excellent collection. Nice to see them together.
  4. Rick Stansberger
    Thanks, Larry.  I was surprised at how consistent the voice is.  Didn't plan it that way.
    Melitta Rose likes this.
  5. ljordan
    Rick, these are quite the ride, memorable and leaves me with something to recall. Really taken with "Breathing Lessons," like to see that one in print. Also worth noting, is the coherence of the group. Love how the James Wright nod gets winked at by Beethoven and a completely different ghost. Excellent work.

    Rick Stansberger likes this.
  6. Rick Stansberger
    Roger, Trish, Tom,  I'm honored.  High praise coming from y'all.
  7. Roger Fizzerton
    Fine, fine pieces, greatly enjoyed.   Roger
  8. TrishSaunders
    Excellent groupings. I like all of these immensely.
  9. Tom Riordan
    excellent, Rick. thoroughly enjoyed these...Tom