Rob Griffith is the author of four collections of poetry: A Matinee in Plato's
Cave, winner of the 2009 Best Book of Indiana Award; Poisoning Caesar;
Necessary Alchemy, winner of Middle Tennessee University’s Chapbook Prize; and
The Moon from Every Window. His work has also appeared in magazines and journals
such as Poetry, First Things, River Styx, The North American Review, The Sewanee
Theological Review, Prairie Schooner and The Oxford American, among many others.
He is the Associate Director of the University of Evansville Press, the Director
of the Harlaxton Summer Writing Program, and one of the founding co-editors
of Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry. He has a website at
Rob Griffith's new collection of poems, The Moon from Every Window, is
a poised, polished, extraordinary book of formal dexterity and technical aplomb.
And in these pages is the heartbreaking story of a couple on the rocks, elegant,
windswept, and soulful. Read the last lines, if even only those. Read ´em and
weep. — Greg Williamson
The sad songs of Iraq and of Afghanistan echo here, and of wars and rumors of
wars yet to come. — R.S. Gwynn
A science of inks and rumors,
quill and vellum, Cartesian grids
that net oceans of blank page
in lines as slight as hairs—
these are what he thinks about
over pints of sour beer in Lisbon
while he waits for the steepled ships
to belly through the bay,
each prow folding back the sea
in downy blankets. Sailors, rimed
with salt and starred with scales
from flounder, plaice, and sole,
will stagger to their cups,
and for a dram or a coin
they'll run a callused finger
over the table, tracing their paths
across the sea's broad, scarred back.
Later, slightly drunk and wavering
between candlelight and the moon,
he will imagine those lines
and follow them past sad-eyed mermen,
brine-cloaked dragons, and deserts
of calmed water until, at last,
he finds a jungled island, its sand
the color of his daughter's hair.
He will urge the stylus across the copperplate,
his hand always moving out
to find his own heart, sea-dark and vast.
You sit in bed, back bowed like a fishing pole
taut against a heavy catch. The pose
is one I always mistake for sorrow, pain,
or despair. I touch your arm, cool and smooth,
and ask, “What’s wrong?” You surface slowly,
shedding the dark water of your prayer
before opening your eyes and smiling archly.
You’d think I’d know by now that every night
you take your small boat out to the deep waters
and cast your line. And all the while, I pace
the shingle, ignoring the lap and click of waves
against the stones, ignoring all that moonlight
trembling on the bay. Instead, I watch
for that black wake that signals your return.
The Tomb of the Unknown Boy Scout
Gilwell Park, London
A colleague mentioned it at lunch, was sure
she had it right. “A cenotaph. Yes.
Or maybe just a grave.” She stirred her soup.
“A small brick plinth, about waist-high and topped
with…something. A buffalo! In bronze, I think.”
She waved her bread knife, its tip still smeared
with butter, and left me wondering why
they’d bury Boy Scouts in a London park.
Some sort of sacrifice to Boy Scout gods?
Perhaps, like Incas, they hollowed out a hill
then threw their victim in and walled him up.
And in this barrow filled with midnight,
the boy would grip his knees and tremble,
disturbing piles of pinewood derby cars,
some books on tying knots, and merit badges
strewn about like wafers from the Eucharist.
Or maybe it’s a shrine to all those boys
who bled for England. In fen-felled keeps,
in drafty great halls packed now with tourists,
tapestries shiver on the walls. And there, picked out
in ochre, gold, and green, long-legged Crusaders
march through wastes, their warhead helms pulled low,
their leather armor creaking in the mind.
But if you look more closely, you’ll see him,
a lone Boy Scout in neckerchief and olive shorts.
He stands among those grim-eyed men-at-arms
and smiles, his apple cheeks cross-stitched in red.
But maybe that’s too early. There are other wars,
of course. I hold a dog-eared black and white,
and in the frame a group of doughboys cringe
against their mud-gut trench. Their eyes are closed,
so they don’t see the flare, don’t see the boy
who stands amid the sludge in kneesocks and stares
at the eldritch light. His mouth a perfect O,
he might be singing campfire songs. He might.
Adam, After Eve
After grief, alone again with the world,
he finds those little pleasures, so long misplaced,
turning up like unlooked for coins
in pockets or the bottoms of drawers.
Shuffling in the morning kitchen,
piles of fig leaves on the bedroom floor
and stacks of dirty plates and cups rising
from the sink like a miniature Babel,
he picks up a dish brush dripping with soapy water
and stares at the bristles. The only words
that come are “hairy teeth,” and he turns
to ask Eve for the word he’s lost.
But all that is left of her is emptiness,
a dull ache in his side on rainy days.
He knows that other words are escaping too,
flying south like the blackbirds
stitched across his autumn sky,
and he knows that soon he will forget
the names he shaped, like urns, to hold his fears.
And when their clay cracks and crumbles,
he knows that wolf will become hunger,
water will become cold beast,
and the clematis outside his kitchen window
will become slow destroyer—
word by word, the world uncreated.
But this too, he thinks, is wrong,
for he suspects that nameless or not,
the waxwings will still settle
in the tall grass, the dogwood
will catch fire every spring,
and the wren outside his window
will sing as always.
Jonathan Edwards at the River
“Here is livelily represented how all things tend to one, even to God, the boundless ocean.”
— Jonathan Edwards, from “Images or Shadows of Divine Things”
The sky grows light, and lightens more
with goldfinch song among the trees,
the notes so bright they leave me heartsore
to walk this path of haloed green.
The river, too, uncoils its force
and levers up silt and stone,
churns them in its milky course—
a lathe to shape inconstant earth
until the only thing we know
is change and loss, as if the point
to everything is letting go
of time and all it sweeps away.
But this is wrong. The river bursts
through mountain rock, scores plain and bog
till all those waters, so long dispersed,
convene again in boundless seas.
And there, beneath a blue resolve,
the rivers merge until each drop,
like souls returned to God, dissolves
into the ocean’s salty heart.
Our deliquescing selves, awash in sun,
embrace a long oblivion.
Your birthday’s come around again, and I
can think of nothing but those 33s
collecting dust behind the stairs. Fading,
their cardboard jackets hold a thousand ghosts—
the brooding bands, standing with arms crossed
in front of brick walls or railroad tracks
that needle-off to infinity; moonscapes
in psychedelic reds, blues, and black;
the denim jackets, the moused hair, the scowls,
the desert landscapes. They wait in the silence cast
by all the years. And I wish I could rise
above the clouds, above this disc of stars
and dust, and gently lift the needle up
and back. I’d let it slip into the groove,
that first song yawning out a sunrise,
the vinyl night spinning down to nothing.
And every time, before that last track ends,
I’d lift the needle yet again, content
to hear these same old songs, desperate
to avoid the hiss before it plays, or after.