Poetry | September 01, 1997


Sometimes my bones hum like Bunyan’s

must have; world turned vassal to my will,

whole cornfields swaying at my footsteps,

thistles fleshed into fruit. Then I think

I could live in a lighthouse, be happy

without an arm curled around me at night.

Or wander perhaps the forsaken farmland,

pilfering from silos, surviving

off the goodwill of the land. But when

is the truth ever like that? Once

I caught a catfish in the Adirondacks.

The thing wouldn’t die even after I knifed it,

yanking out whatever I could find in its gut.

By the time it was finished frying

I could hardly swallow one forkful.

Self-sufficiency, I now say, is for giants.

Me, I need a mouth to greet mine after chores,

a stranger’s words to bring me wonder,

a name to call my name urgent in the dark.

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.