With Your Back to the Half Day by Don Morrill
Van K. Brock Florida Poetry Series (2005)
With high lyric gifts in his back pocket, Morrill stands on the shore and throws question after question into the sea of contradiction that is our contemporary reality. In addresses to friends, to the reader, to the beloved, to the poet in us all, he questions our common mortality, ubiquitous and necessary evils, and his great luck in love. For his is, at heart, a lover's sensibility, and with an extraordinarily gentle touch, he probes this most common ground of poetry. -- Sidney Wade, author of Celestial Bodies
Most of the time, as Donald Morrill puts it, "the moment arrives like a hundred dull cousins." Luckily, it is precisely the deadening rubble which his poetry prods into a skeptical yet wholehearted pursuit of the numinous. When he finds it, we know it by the lush sounds and images marshaled to convey it. Here he is watching a friend paint: "the gate was burred, the found brush stiff. You worked/the thickening color like heat/into a sore shoulder." Even more remarkable in this collection are the flashes of wisdom and moral clarity... This poet's intelligence, combined with profound humility, produces moments as bright as the blaze on the waves at noon. -- Enid Shomer, author of Black Drum and This Close to the Earth
This is a book that transcends the writer and reader as we know them and forces us to look at the inherent contradictions in our own lives. Morrill's experiences of love, loss, friendship, family and life are my experiences. As I am compelled to go to work today because my three-year-old daughter says,"Mommie, you have to," I am further compelled to see how Morrill has recorded our collective experience in his honest and searing poems. In the end, he offers us a fine collection of well-crafted poems successfully balancing head and heart. -- Kristine Snodgrass, Organica News
Let's talk too much
Let's talk too much and wake up tonight and worry
how we get human every day.
Let's argue for the point we were going to make long ago
and forgot in words that change the room's dimensions,
whose shame is ours and imperceptible to others
holding forth, interrupting the unexpected.
Let's scramble the midnight eggs with gossip
and sit in the cinema at 9 a.m.,
whispering that mood where everything could become a poem
(not unlike the money in your pocket
suddenly flying into the river,
becoming the river, becoming
a back stiffening when the sun finally rolls off it
and then bliss ambiguous).
Let's not so much flatter the giants
(who aren't as ordinary as their tells and wiles)
but joke with them like hapless governors, old lovers kept in shape;
they own questions, too, and might
let those disappointments slip.
Yes my broken-windowed friend,
the burrs in Dante's fur need combing out
like the struggle to submit to each voice we might call mine.
And there's the old story we wanted told of childhood
that was another frank resistance to the now-shorter life.
On the corner, in that slight at the counter,
and the sense of luck
like a traumatized muscle,
the still beautiful abounds.
Even if boredom seems the way of all flash.
Shall we go down in flaming acquaintanceship?
Shall we balance our blood?
Let's isolate the matter
neither liquid nor solid nor certainly gas.
Let's help ourselves to the problem.
It's prideful, of course
It's prideful, of course, but I admit I love poorly--
which is not the same as, in youth, confessing
I've been a lousy lover. Age makes us grateful for love,
so attention is welcome even by the suffering and betrayed;
even spouses will hope we might become what they think we were.
They don't want that so much as the poetry in our pockets now.
The spouses go to bed early, yes, at this time of marriage.
And, remaining, we're relieved and disturbed by not knowing
how to perform as we have for other years.
We might well perform again when shown how we undid.
There are things to say in this. But the things avoided
are not so much unsaid as wordless.
One sits alone and is not one. One does the last dishes
and wonders should the next page in the novel be turned?
Should the wine in the glass enter one? The triumph
is discovering that there's still pleasure and satisfaction,
though it's difficult without the unmockable look.
How far dare I go with this before I fall asleep and sober up?
How far does anybody go when they enter or receive?
No one knows when it's the beginning. Oh, the hands,
my hands, are assured in memory. My heart--
not much different from every protagonist.
I'm faithful to habit, hating its romance, and I'm breaking.
Love, I know you are, too, and just as frightened.
Yet there are no words because time is with us and against us.