Charles O. Hartman

Dead Tree in the Back Yard & Gait
April 20, 2023 Hartman Charles O.

Dead Tree in the Back Yard


You aren’t mine. A lot line
jinks across the mind’s map
between us. When you fall
you won’t befall my roof.


Scrupulous woodpeckers
sculpt you: they have the time,
you’ve got the goods. Summer
cardinals your bare bones.


As turkey roost, you’re swayed.
Coyote trots below.
Those who farmed here, clearing
all else, made you wolf tree.


Across upright years, your
attitude has prospered
like a reputation
to make me admire death.


I found tapes: my father
teaching, not quite in my
voice, not not, saying things
I’d say now. I come to


my own attention, like
the osprey—sudden, pale,
erect and feat-feathered,
head turned earthward in high


study—who selected
this minute in autumn
to settle a moment,
lean, spread, and sail away.






We get over ground
by going over
the ground. Wait,
what? Or staying
over it—simple as that. Upright
as that, as
long as we can.
Or so.



The classification of gaits
begins from the left hindlimb.
Beyond the sequence
are symmetries
and beats.



The earth
waits for us: we wait
to welcome it. We trust
it will as well.



Petty pace. Through
our paces. It is the pace
that kills. To be buried
in the myddell pace
before the high crosse.



A lizard or turtle
which has no diaphragm
and breathes by expanding its whole body
with the very muscles
used for the undulation of walking
cannot at the same time
breathe and move.



The amble—between
walk and gallop, if the horse
is of that parentage (gene
DMRT3)—has gratified many
in the saddle, whatever their mounts
might think. From Hittites
through our Middle Ages, amblers were
prized for smoothness on long rides, and are.
Two beasts
at once, like us:
the front feet trot
while the rear walk.



Bipeds walk or run—
second by second the ground
keeps track of us, or we fly



or hop, like kangaroos.
From there to flight is far,
far, but we have
time, because we make time
who can mark time,



Before chronometers, Galileo
clocked his inclined planes’
evidence on gravity
by singing madrigals. We know
how the tune is meant
to go.



The sole presses earth
so briefly—most of the step
taken up with putting down
and levering there to lift again—
we can hardly say
we set foot anywhere.



Since it requires
meaning to, only

Charles O. Hartman has published eight collections of poetry, including Downfall of the Straight Line (Arrowsmith Press, forthcoming 2024), as well as books on jazz and song (Jazz Text, Princeton 1991) and on computer poetry (Virtual Muse, Wesleyan 1996). His Free Verse (Princeton 1981) is still in print (Northwestern 1996), and Verse: An Introduction to Prosody was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015. In 2020 he co-edited, with Martha Collins, Pamela Alexander, and Matthew Krajniak, a volume on Wendy Battin for the Unsung Master series. He is Poet in Residence Emeritus at Connecticut College. He plays jazz guitar.