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Fall/Winter 07/08 Edition
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Author: John Repp
Location: Erie, Pennsylvania

John Repp's recent collections of poetry include Fever (Mayapple Press, 2007), No Away (Pudding House, 2007), and Gratitude (Cherry Grove, 2005). His book reviews appear regularly in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Skunk Cabbage

Tolstoy said we write from our wounds,
but we mustn't write till the wounds heal.
(I paraphrase, but that's the English gist.)
Tolstoy said it, so I considered it,
but not for long, since 95% of what I've written

would go poof if I agreed, and what then?
I need those words, every last one.
Besides, why would I take advice
from the man who wrote Anna Karenina
and a few years later wished to burn it?

Therefore, I'll keep bedeviling you
with enchanted briars, a collie's ruff,
skunk cabbage rank under spindly oak,
a fantastical hut of untrimmed cedar,
the aroma of marsh grass on a March noon,

a trillion nanoseconds of rage, a single bead
of honeysuckle sap, shame by the trainload,
an ocean of bitterness, thousands of bagworms,
millions of dog ticks, the bony whine of deerflies,
my mother brilliant, dreadful, always, everywhere,

my father's hands cradling a shattered reel,
crop dusters dropping below the trees
and roaring skyward again, chicken coops,
mosquitoes big as sparrows, galvanized washtubs,
water rats, a split broomstick sword, the petroglyph

stitched on my wife's favorite sweater,
how my sister stirs paella, how my son whispers Bapa,
how my brother's voice went velvet
on summer nights we thought would never end,
how it all, every last quark, will go poof.

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