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Robert Fanning

Robert Fanning

Robert Fanning met Tom in his last year as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. Says Robert, "He inspired me toward an MFA and was my mentor at Sarah Lawrence College and a close friend and father figure ever since. Tom recognized immediately that poetry was a fire inside and needed to be central to my life; he gave me deep encourageent and support." Robert is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, Our Sudden Museum, American Prophet, and The Seed Thieves. He is a Professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University.

Remembrance of Tom Lux

One summer afternoon in Birmingham, Michigan, I watched Lux's doppelganger cross the road. This was coincidental already; I'd just had a dream about Tom the night before. There was, of course, no reason he'd be in this town. But after a double-take, I realized it was Tom! I shouted his name and he hopped in my car. In Michigan for a workshop, he said he really wanted to check out the new ballpark, and a few hours later, we were on our way down to Detroit. At the stadium gate, I proudly threw down my credit card for a couple bleacher seats. Tom pushed my card away and said: "Are you fucking crazy, Robert? We're two of America's finest poets at a goddamn baseball game." Throwing his card down, he said "Give us the two very best seats in this house—I don't care what they cost." We made way then to our seats in the 2nd row, one Tiger fan and one Red Sox fan, one student and his mentor, a stone's toss from home plate. After sitting down, I turned and looked at Tom, the sun on his beaming face, and he squeezed my shoulder, giving me his characteristic snicker.

An Horation Notion

The thing gets made, gets built, and you're the slave
who rolls the log beneath the block, then another,
then pushes the block, then pulls a log
from the rear back to the front
again and then again it goes beneath the block,
and so on. It's how a thing gets made—not
because you're sensitive, or you get genetic-lucky,
or God says: Here's a nice family
seven children, let's see: this one in charge
of the village dunghill, these two die of buboes, this one
Kierkegaard, this one a drooling

nincompoop, this one clerk, this one cooper.
You need to love the thing you do—birdhouse building,
painting tulips exclusively, whatever—and then
you do it
so consciously driven
by your unconscious
that the thing becomes a wedge
that splits a stone and between the halves
the wedge then grows, i.e., the thing
is solid but with a soul,
a life of its own. Inspiration, the donnee,

the gift, the bolt of fire
down the arm that makes the art?
Grow up! Give me, please, a break!!
You make the thing because you love the thing
and you love the thing because someone else loved it
enough to make you love it.
And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded
toward the earth's core.
And with that your heart on a beam burns
through the ionosphere.
And with that you go to work.

Falling Through the Leaves

Blind wind beats the bushes down and wild,
like the hair of the mad: it's a day, a page
ripped from a book of childhood—yours, any child's,
it's a moment when all is clear, changed.

And it is always on a day of chill and rain, a fierce
gray frame to everything. A stained huddle of cows
bellows in the barnyard: Let us in, their eyes pierced
by pain, dumbness. And the child watches. How

do these moments, these fractures in time
happen, how is a child taken, struck
by something...something, taken low or high,
filled with world or forever with self? Is it luck,

good or bad? One child hears a falling through the leaves,
branches, and does not care what it is,
another hears and knows a bird falls, and grieves
without knowing why or at what cost. This

one is the winter child, the one so filled with world.
The other, no better, no less (neither has a choice),
through life is obliviously hurled.
You hear him talking but it doesn't seem like a voice.

The wind rips across the damp and freezing pastures,
children fill the schoolyards, the shattered towns,
and the stars expel their light—last year's,
last millenium's, their gelid light drilling down.

 

 

"An Horation Notion" from Split Horizon, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994

"Falling through the Leaves" from The Drowned River, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990

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