John Hoppenthaler

July 20, 2023 Hoppenthaler John



for Christy


Last night a barred owl swept across the road,
plunged into the hillside, then ascended,
some rodent, its clock run out, in its beak.
The owl settled into the nearby crook
of an oak and consumed at its leisure.


For twenty minutes or so, it perched there,
the occasional swivel of its head
my way, pale face under a pale half-moon
sizing me up, near drunk at the railing.
Lord knows, it could have been the alcohol,


but I was at mass, a kind of rapture.
Earlier, the roar, distorted road music—
bike after bike rolling through Eureka,
startling birds and the poets. I’d seen
two Eat Pussy, Not Pavement tee-shirts in


the space of an hour. Born they are, but not
so wild as they dream to be: long, gray beards
flapping in the breeze, leather-clad women
clutching behind them, tanned arms wrapped around
prodigious mid-sections, pressed tight, keeping


their motors running. And now, all seems less
dire, pale face under pale half-moon, a fierce
plunging, keen desire and you so far
away for so long now. These spring leaves, owl
in their veiling, wet road shining below,


and I’m rapt at the edge of the railing.


John Hoppenthaler’s books of poetry are Night Wing Over Metropolitan Area, Domestic GardenAnticipate the Coming Reservoir, and Lives of Water, all with Carnegie Mellon UP. With Kazim, Ali, he has co-edited a volume of essays on the poetry of Jean Valentine, This-World Company (U of Michigan P). Professor of CW and Literature at East Carolina University, he also serves on the Advisory Board for Backbone Press, specializing in the publication and promotion of marginalized voices. For nine years, he served as Personal Assistant to Toni Morrison. His poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, New York Magazine, Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, The Literary Review, Blackbird, Southern Humanities Review, and many other journals, anthologies, and textbooks. He was the poetry editor of Kestrel for twelve years and editor of A Poetry Congeries for ten years.