Jeffrey Harrison

January 15, 2012 Jeffrey Harrison



I’m going to pretend I’m a painter and just
set up my easel here in the tall grass
by the river, with the bridge in the distance,
because the bridge needs to be in the picture
with its steel trusses and concrete pylons
streaked with rust, something to give structure,
something man-made, a work of art
or at least of engineering to connect
not only the two banks of the river but also
the earth to the sky, fastening them
together like a row of thick stitches.

If I were really a painter I wouldn’t have to
say all that but just paint the damn bridge,
free of the smeary imprecision and duplicity
of words, though I could still make the bridge
look like stitches by painting it black
against a sunset’s bloody wound—but that
would be its own kind of falsity, so maybe
it’s only an illusion that a different
medium would connect me more directly
to the world, and the wound may be
inside me anyway, and these the stitches.

Jeffrey Harrison is the author of five full-length books of poetry—The Singing Underneath (1988), selected by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series, Signs of Arrival (1996), Feeding the Fire (2001), Incomplete Knowledge (2006), which was runner-up for the Poets’ Prize, and Into Daylight, published in 2014 by Tupelo Press as the winner of the Dorset Prize– as well as of The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems, published in 2006 by Waywiser Press in the U.K. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, he has published poems in recent or forthcoming issues of AGNI, The New Republic, The Yale Review, The Hudson Review, The Kenyon Review, The Cincinnati Review, The Manhattan Review, and elsewhere.