Ohio

In 2014, Ohio established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Dave Lucas, who was appointed to a one-year term in 2018. Lucas is the author of Weather (VQR, 2011).

In 2018, Manuel Iris was named poet laureate of Cincinnati, Ohio. Iris will serve a two-year term.

In 2018, Damien McClendon was named poet laureate of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. McClendon will serve a two-year term.

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Beyond Even This

Who would have thought the afterlife would 
look so much like Ohio? A small town place, 
thickly settled among deciduous trees. 
I lived for what seemed a very short time. 
Several things did not work out.
Casually almost, I became another one 
of the departed, but I had never imagined 
the tunnel of hot wind that pulls 
the newly dead into the dry Midwest 
and plants us like corn. I am 
not alone, but I am restless. 
There is such sorrow in these geese 
flying over, trying to find a place to land 
in the miles and miles of parking lots 
that once were soft wetlands. They seem 
as puzzled as I am about where to be. 
Often they glide, in what I guess is 
a consultation with each other, 
getting their bearings, as I do when 
I stare out my window and count up 
what I see. It's not much really:
one buckeye tree, three white frame houses, 
one evergreen, five piles of yellow leaves. 
This is not enough for any heaven I had 
dreamed, but I am taking the long view. 
There must be a backcountry of the beyond, 
beyond even this and farther out, 
past the dark smoky city on the shore 
of Lake Erie, through the landlocked passages 
to the Great Sweetwater Seas.

Come Up From the Fields Father

Come up from the fields father, here's a letter from our Pete,
And come to the front door mother, here's a letter from thy dear son.

Lo, 'tis autumn,
Lo, where the trees, deeper green, yellower and redder,
Cool and sweeten Ohio's villages with leaves fluttering in the moderate wind,
Where apples ripe in the orchards hang and grapes on the trellis'd vines,
(Smell you the smell of the grapes on the vines?
Smell you the buckwheat where the bees were lately buzzing?)

Above all, lo, the sky so calm, so transparent after the rain, and with wondrous clouds,
Below too, all calm, all vital and beautiful, and the farm prospers well.

Down in the fields all prospers well,
But now from the fields come father, come at the daughter's call.
And come to the entry mother, to the front door come right away.

Fast as she can she hurries, something ominous, her steps trembling,
She does not tarry to smooth her hair nor adjust her cap.

Open the envelope quickly,
O this is not our son's writing, yet his name is sign'd,
O a strange hand writes for our dear son, O stricken mother's soul!
All swims before her eyes, flashes with black, she catches the main words only,
Sentences broken, gunshot wound in the breast, cavalry skirmish, taken to hospital,
At present low, but will soon be better.

Ah now the single figure to me,
Amid all teeming and wealthy Ohio with all its cities and farms,
Sickly white in the face and dull in the head, very faint,
By the jamb of a door leans.

Grieve not so, dear mother, (the just-grown daughter speaks through her sobs,
The little sisters huddle around speechless and dismay'd,)
See, dearest mother, the letter says Pete will soon be better.

Alas poor boy, he will never be better, (nor may-be needs to be better, that brave and simple soul,)
While they stand at home at the door he is dead already,
The only son is dead.

But the mother needs to be better,
She with thin form presently drest in black,
By day her meals untouch'd, then at night fitfully sleeping, often waking,
In the midnight waking, weeping, longing with one deep longing,
O that she might withdraw unnoticed, silent from life escape and withdraw,
To follow, to seek, to be with her dear dead son.

The Movement of a Caravan over the Landscape

That we rode harder into the wind,
That the story got told,
That the broken candies were eaten first,
That they were eaten last,
That all subjects grew extinct eventually,
That in the inn I ruined our lives,
That in the barn I tried to save them,
That I failed,
That per Fitzgerald the manner remains intact for some time after
the morale cracks,
That in the interregna all suffer equally,
That the languages we are born ready to speak leave us one by one,
That unless we’re actively procreating we’re acting metaphorically,
That I’ve never been to France,
That I’ve been to Ohio,
That I remember almost nothing I did there,
That it is meaningless to say I liked that,
That emotions accumulate into a few categories,
That each new one is itself plus everything like itself,
That when animals act like people we love them more,
That when they do we want them never to stop,
That we give them the names we wish we had,
That men have children and manufacture new mothers,
That I anticipate escaping my fate or not,
That I anticipate the future by never buying groceries,
That I know the flesh is incidental but keep so many photographs,
That the story gets told,
That it was the reason for these various movements.