Poem of the Week | November 05, 2018
Cory Hutchinson-Reuss “I Know a Man Who Swallowed the Sky”
This week we are delighted to present “I Know A Man Who Swallowed the Sky,” a new poem by Cory Hutchinson-Reuss.
Cory Hutchinson-Reuss grew up in Arkansas and holds a PhD in English from the University of Iowa. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Pinch, Drunken Boat, Four Way Review, Salamander, Witness, and in Crazyhorse for the 2016 Lynda Hull Memorial Prize for Poetry. She is a 2017 Best New Poets nominee and a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal. She lives in Iowa City.
I Know A Man Who Swallowed the Sky
He lives behind prison walls.
When he was younger, he lived
in the interlock of law and anger,
banned from the prison with trees,
driven inside, under ceiling,
into the solitary eye.
A woman gave him a few seeds
that another man had written
in seclusion and prayer.
The man I know ate the seeds,
recognized them as his own
kernel splitting open,
wound into window,
through which years later I see
what’s possible. Transformation’s
daily grit and the rhythms of being
human with others: he carries a book
and notepad, a brown sack of fruit.
He says I love you to the men in hospice.
Some curse him.
He works. He chews gum and reads.
His heart fibrillates.
He stitches a parachute of blues.
The past’s pure grain despair,
cell fire, and needle’s eye.
From his stories I learn I was born
in the hospital where his friends
went for healing. Missouri boot.
The river’s gospel, sweltering.
We talk about the mysterious
bind between divinity and humanity.
That some aches never subside.
Finally allowed into the prison yard,
he rested his face
against his first tree in years,
sealed in himself an image,
an embrace of the moment
that grows in widening arcs.
In lungs, the branches, the branches
through fences, through fences,
cloud, hovering like a hermitage
where a man writes seeds in the rain.
I eat them, too. They fall to the roots,
sprout according to each need.
They break into a blue firmament,
a heaven so free and irrevocable it hurts.
I’m part of a writing workshop composed of incarcerated and outside writers. One week I brought in a poem that included a line about touching a tree for the first time in years, which prompted one of the guys to share a story about his early days in prison. Over the years, he and I have discovered our commonalities: the region where we each grew up, various creative and spiritual practices, and certain writers whose books have been instrumental in our healing. I admire the inner work this man has done and the way he cares for the people around him. His transformation, his compassionate, unflappable presence, have impacted me, and I wanted to honor him in some way. He gave me his blessing to write about part of his story and the way it has intertwined with mine.
SEE THE ISSUE
Poem of the Week
Jan 21 2019
Emily August “Black-Eyed Susan”
This week we present “Black-Eyed Susan,” a new poem by Emily August. Emily August is an assistant professor of literature at Stockton University, where she teaches courses in 19th-century British
Poem of the Week
Jan 14 2019
David Bergman “The Man Who Felt No Pain”
This week we present “The Man Who Felt No Pain” a poem by David Bergman. Bergman’s poems appear in our Fall Issue (41.3) “Practical Living.” David Bergman is the
Poem of the Week
Jan 07 2019
Toi Derricotte “What Are You?”
Toi Derricotte’s most recent book is The Undertaker’s Daughter. She has received the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, two Pushcarts, the Paterson Poetry Prize for