Leland Jamieson is an American poet who lives and writes in East Hampton, Connecticut. He is a Phi Beta
Kappa graduate of UNC at Chapel Hill. His poetry is colored by the outlooks of
people he's met in four different occupations. The longest and most interesting
of these was in performing arts center management at Bushnell Memorial in
Hartford, Connecticut, where he worked for 18 years and wore every hat to be
worn, including that of the hall's managing director.
Although he has been a scribbler of verse since he was a teen, starting in 2002
he began to devote himself to formal poetry. His goal is to tell stories and
present vignettes relevant to today’s readers. "Teaching myself to write in
rhyme and meter, and committing myself to that endeavor," he says, "has been the
most liberating experience I have ever enjoyed in my writing life. What rhyme
and meter most liberated for me was feeling, and with it fresh insight into
people (including myself), and into the nature of the world we call home."
Struck from Lightning
My grand-kids scuff the rug for pinprick bolts
of lightning they can finger-zap on skin,
then bolt when I am jolted by their volts.
These quanta, of non-local origin,
convey a metaphysical within,
illumine mirth in everything absurd,
electrify the heart of this old bird.
Within our laurel's blooms I spy by chance
two catbirds, improvising ear to ear,
as each upon the other's art descants.
I stand in awe of how the two cohere.
Aware of me, perhaps, they flush, and clear
the laurel, soaring to our neighbor's orchard
and leave the scrawny poet in me tortured.
Hearthstone in the Watershed
For M.B., with thanks for the crow.
This watershed is laced with walls of stone
hardscrabble farmers clanged with plough, dug up
by “Gee!” and “Haw!” and dragged to bound fields blown
so bare by winter that no crow could sup . . . .
A tulip tree well-past a hundred years
ago took root within this cellar hole
beside a hearth where once moms roasted ears
of corn and simmered chowder, bowl on bowl.
The love of place — that fell away as they
exhausted all its soil, burned every tree,
as kids rode west, as elders died away —
feels present still in moss-green stone debris,
in frost-felled hearthstone . . . sun its only heat.
We sit on it, and rub our weary feet.
Beating Out the Train
Arden, North Carolina, to DeLand, Florida.
I’d have to wait ’til 5 to catch the train
in Biltmore. I’d get home next day past noon.
But Sid was really cool and eased my pain.
He hadn’t thought me crazy as a loon
and gladly dropped me, at Route 25,
by 12:15. I hummed a happy tune.
And waiting there, I hadn’t time to skive
my fingernails when Trailways hove in sight.
I kneed my bag the three steps up. “Hi — I’ve
a ways to go, will ride most of the night.”
“Pay thirty cents. That’s to Hendersonville,
first rest stop. Buy your ticket, get a bite
to eat there at the counter. Eat your fill
because the next full stop is down the road
a piece in Greenville. They’ve a real good grill . . . .”
Six hundred jerking, jiggling miles I rode,
with stops to use the john, buy dried-up ham
and cheeses, apple pie (no à la mode) . . . .
At last we reached DeLand’s main drag. Hot damn!
The driver dropped me off at my front door.
My house key slipped me through the creaking jamb.
I’d written Mom I might get home round four
A.M. by bus instead of just past noon
by train. I crept in bed to Papa’s snore
and thought I heard Mom’s too. It was a boon —
felt great — this extra half a day’s vacation . . . .
Tonight a date . . . . Svelte moon, slim as a spoon . . . .
There is a part of me that craves a dog,
a terrier — wheaten cairn — to be precise,
a warm and shaggy-whiskered pedagogue
that has no neocortical advice.
From my poor skull she’d flush the mid-brain truth
with wagging tail, wet tongue (yet nothing said).
She’d tease from me my best — that limbic sleuth —
outfoxing rocks long-squirreled inside my head.
But would I live to bury her? With due
respect? Beneath a cairn heaped up above?
Or would she feel abandonment, no clue,
if I go first, despite her terrier’s love?
Or worse, both she and I, together, grow
so old that neither, then, can come? Or go?
Invitation to Negative Space
With thanks to Zecharia Sitchin.
What may we say that’s not clichéd by sex
roles Anunnaki thrust on you and me?
What shackled slaves can clear the holds and decks
of dense ship Earth orbiting a solar sea?
You ask, “Why can’t we just take thought — be free?
Why do you clueless men obsess control?
Why want a woman’s body and her soul?”
Had I an answer that would satisfy
your heart, I’d surely give it to you — quick —
to ease the pain that stabs your Inner Eye.
To spot the Anunnaki’s cruel trick
within our heads is not enough to wick
up, from our souls, the poisons and the biles
still sloshing there from our genetic trials.
The human male’s obsession with control
of females stems from envy, lack, and fear.
Males don’t swell up, bring forth a brand new soul.
We compensate for this deep lack with beer,
with sex, gold, power, war, and art that’s drear.
We worship “gods” who mindlessly enslaved
us — worse, we mimic how they all behaved.
That time back when you showed me “Jean,” in ink —
you’d drawn her with your brush-tipped three-foot dowels —
I felt perhaps you’d stepped up to the brink
and grasped the night with vast eyes like an owl’s.
No need for painter’s smeared-up wiping towels.
The essence of that deep sweet soul named Jean
negative space alone could cleanly glean.
This space is most mysterious, and may teach
us gardeners — poets and artists pulling weeds
from ears and eyes — to open up the breach
imagination strides to sow her seeds.
Her seeds sprout fresh new feeling. Heart concedes.
(If her green shoots unfold in space we’ve feared —
watered, it may become our most revered.)
Hijacked from evolution’s natural way,
we make in art what solace we can find
as slaves of culture (our gods’ power-play).
No art undoes what they did humankind,
but art redeems an Earthling’s state of mind.
May we who struggle making art find feeling’s
healing — from rape by astronauts’ false dealings.
IN VITRO: NEW SHORT RHYMING POEMS POST-9/11
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