April 26, 2018

BOB CHURCHILL: A POEM



Bob Churchill
AN OLD SURVIVOR CALCULATES HIS RECOMPENSE

I’ve let the backyard go to jungle
again.  Not like “The Bush” in Vietnam—
after fifty years still the place
of nightmares, with lime-green pit vipers
nestled in lianas, blood-sheened
leaves large as platters,
teenage girls in black pajamas
eager to poke me full
of bullet holes with battered AK-47s.

Here, chest-high stands
of nettles meant to sear
red itchfire blisters into skin,
4-foot dandelions gone to lace,
pungent wild onions fatter
than my thumb.  And the Creeping Jenny,
a toddler testing newfound legs,
has somehow galloped everywhere.

Here, a Ruby-throated hummingbird
siphons nectar at a feeder. Cicadas
rasp metallic song from ash-leaf-
sunshine-flutter. The almost-painful
sweetness of wild Honeysuckle
perfumes the courtyard.  And festooning
twenty feet of board fence,
the draped ramble of an unpruned
Concord grapevine.  Each season

its hard green beads stuff
squirrels’ guts months before
that drowsing afternoon,
forever in the future, when full-
to-bursting bunches push themselves
into my hand, beg to be popped
one-by-one onto a thirsty tongue
or pressed through thick, rich, purple ooze
into warm Summer wine.

My former co-editor of poetry at Douglas Glover’s Numéro Cinq, Susan Aizenberg, introduced me to Bob Churchill, a Vietnam combat veteran (1969-70) who recently retired after thirty-eight years as Assistant Professor of English at Creighton University.  He has written poems all his life, but has published very few over the years—mostly in small literary magazines.  In May, 2017, he graduated from Creighton’s MFA program.

Bob writes: What draws me to poetry? I love the challenge of trying to communicate an experience in language that's packed so full of possibilities it incandesces. Some favorite poets:  Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Kooser, Susan Aizenberg, Betsy Scholl (and many others). The most challenging thing about writing poetry for me is disciplining myself to sit down and write regularly.


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