Jeff Hardin (Climate Change, Eco-activism, Whisperings of Social Justice)

Jeff Hardin is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Watermark, A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being, and No Other Kind of World. His work has been honored with the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize. Recent and forthcoming poems appear in Image, Bennington Review, The Southern Review, Hudson Review, The Laurel Review, Zone 3, Grist, and others. He lives and teaches in TN.

 

What Happens Next

 

What people know they best keep to themselves.

Otherwise, all the earth would turn into a war zone,

a hellscape of marauders. We are never far from

every moment upended. The blaze red of maples

turning yellow cannot heal our hearts, nor can

the dove’s doleful sound. Daily bread is replaced

by daily horrors. Specifics are interchangeable.

We may long for happenstance, pray for the student

walking home at night, follow Ulysses through

his years of exile, but someone even now is turning

down a back road. To say what happens next might

break us wholly. Every day we live not knowing

which Reformation might have come into the world.

We nod to a neighbor who looks at the world through

a gun’s scope. Through one word or another, we

do the same, narrowing our sight, locked in, ready.


 

 

One Source Of The Tensions That Plague Us

 

Not by accident the man, misspeaking, said monument

instead of moment, for the two words are interchangeable.

Given epochs, given eons, a monument is momentary,

and we fashion moments into monuments to visit often,

believing they represent a self or an era we no longer

find our way to. An idea settles in, follows us around,

deepens the hours, frames our interpretations, though

seldom do any two people agree about what the idea is,

one source among others of the tensions that plague us.

Maybe all our words have been misspoken, confused

for the true ones that might have healed us or others,

might have clarified concessions which, increasingly,

we’re long past owning up to and, even if given, might

make little difference to our overlapping conversations.

That’s what a family is, a community, a region, a nation—

a few or millions of words stumbling over each other,

trying to gain supremacy, to stand clear and distinct.

Our voices, no one’s voices, will be here much longer,

and it was hard to see when they ran parallel to each

another, if they did, until they did, but then, like one

moment overtaking another, they were just ordinary,

and days went on being nowhere but what they were,

spaces in which what no one thought was there was

there, hinted at so faintly maybe only one person heard.


 

 

Everywhere Over The Earth

 

God help me—I’m trying to become a man

playing violin in the moments he knows, when

finished, he’ll be lined up with others and shot.

God help us—men with other men sought

to preserve an oak Goethe wrote beneath, yet

turning souls into ash was no struggle at all.

God help trees—they can’t speak our horrors,

though everywhere over the earth they

breathe back what we give them endlessly.

God help breath—how bear even one more,

so many, so many now no longer with us.

From whence they arrive we cannot devise.

God help our arriving wherever we’re going,

entering an ending a final time. God help us

helping God become the God we are becoming.

 


 

 

Gentleness

 

He was trying to figure out gentleness,

the idea inside the idea of it, where

in the history of being it began

and who welcomed it, who set about

to undermine it, if not eradicate it.

The summer was finally heating up

so that mornings on the patio were

beginning to be unbearable, but

then a slight shower, a few random

raindrops, would sprinkle him, like

a momentary baptism, or so he told

himself in a language he understood.

If we are worded into existence, then

what if each person—separated by

time and place—is formed from

different words? Basho was formed

from stillness, Issa from joyful whimsy.

He had at best another ten thousand days.

He conceived of each as a separate poem,

a mind to enter and inhabit, marveling,

not necessarily his own but a possibility.

When Whitman left the astronomer’s

voice to others and gathered himself

—alone—beneath stars, battlefields

ceased. Each flickering presence was

another mind. There was no applause.

Not every destroyed city will be rebuilt.

Some fictions become truer than details

of a life will admit. A rightness may

have a small, then smaller, following,

and a least gesture, noticed by no one,

may calm the world’s furious spinning.


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