The Cortland Review


Maurice Manning
Dark Matter: You Ain't Seen Nothing, Chet A trip to the Dollar Store inspires this meditation on the 'dark matter' of physics and poetry.

Maurice Manning
Four new poems.

David Rigsbee
David Rigsbee reviews John Balaban's Path, Crooked Path.

Paula Bohince
Kris T Kahn
Jesse Waters

Maurice Manning

Maurice Manning's third book, Bucolics, has just been published by Harcourt. He lives in Kentucky and Bloomington, I ndiana, where he teaches at Indiana University.
Maurice Manning - Poetry


Three Truths, One Story    

In faith, dear friend, I can't make up
a name like Turnipseed, or that

I knew a man who went by such
a goodly name. Now, everything

I'm telling you is true. This man
had come from people who knew what they

were doing once, and why it mattered.
Do you know what you're doing? Do you

know something old? A turnipseed
is tiny, it's a little bit

of hardly anything. I guess
that's something old to know: you could hold

an itty bit of almost nothing
and know it's something still, and know

it's always been that way. Do you
like knowing things like that? I knew

a bunch of folks some years ago
whose name was Stonecypher, I kid

you not, and some of them were still
engaged with stones and had the hands

to prove it.  They lived way out. Speaking
of out there places, my father told

me just the other day a tale
about his mother: Mama came

from Leatherwood, he said, Lord knows
what they were doing there, back then.

And that is true for sure; there's not
a living person left to say

what they were doing there. They had
a stripey mule, as Mama said—

the stripes run crossed the ginny's flank—
she told me once, but she is gone,

and missing her has gotten old.
There are words and there are deeds, and both

are dying out, dying away
from where they were and what they meant.

God save the man who has the heart
to think of anything more sad.



The Doctrine Of An Axe    

Of all times, now is not the time,
given the world's old vague condition,

to hang in my mind the plumb-bob weight
of original sin and watch it twist

around like a tire at the end of a rope
looped over a tree branch. Once

my sister came within a hair
of getting bit by a snake asleep

in the tire she'd hooped around herself.
She was wearing a dress, my friend, just home

from church; her patent leather shoes
kicked at the air just twice before

she shed the tire and screamed. I chopped
the copperhead to pieces. What kind

of parents allow their child to play
with an axe? Well, mine, I suppose. I made

them proud that day. The sin was how
I let myself be proud, a pride

that wore like whitewash from a fence.
Now you might think I'm being stern

and unforgiving. After all,
I was only six and could not have known

about sin. But I did; I knew it like
a nursery rhyme, or the Now I Lay Me

bedtime prayer. I once got drunk
on a Sunday morning; I don't know

if that was sinful, but it proved
that nothingness is absolute,

a naked shameful nothing left
beneath the shade tree in my heart,

the rusted axehead long since stuck
and buried in its trunk, a bone

caught in its living throat, a wound
I made in its side and can't undo.

We should both be doing something good;
we should be kind to someone now.



A Psalm To Bring Remembrance    

I had a friend when I was little;
he went to a different school because

he was a little slow. He lived
with a giant man and woman who weren't

his parents, and six or seven more
he called his sisters and brothers. He had

a dog named Sister. We played in the woods
and tinkered on our bicycles.

One day, an older girl took off
her shirt and told us we could touch.

He did. He waved his hands around
as if he were trying to catch a bird.

The older girl was a Catholic,
I believe; her name was Mary; I

was a Presbyterian, and he
was nothing. Another day, we broke

a woman's window with a rock.
He got the tar whipped out of him.

I mowed the banjo player's yard
all summer to pay my share. You God

up there who saw it all, I hope
his life got better, but I doubt

it did. If he is dead by now,
I hope he's resting in your bosom.

Do not be slow. Remember he
was poor and needy, more than me.



That I Abide With Thee In Case You Wondered    

You must keep going you have to tell
yourself again and again I learn

from the tree the bird's one twirling song
is the simple truth I won't know God

except by signs like these I know
the signs are always there for me

the cloud-patch drifts with wisdom Lord
help thou my unbelief give me

the perfect patience of the rain
the word for stone is a word I need

to say you cause my mouth to say it
you make my heart to sing one day

you'll make me fly away for good
I won't remember any words

when I unspeaking flame into
the tree I'll be what I know now

I will not hurt it anymore
you know how hard I wait for then

you know I love the tree for what
it is with all my heart a tree

will you believe I'm praying all
the time when I'm asleep and when

I wake I think you will I'll tell
myself there isn't anything

okay there isn't anything
you see how all of this adds up

a zero with a God inside?



© 2007 The Cortland Review