Below are the all-time best Don Munro poems as chosen by PoetrySoup members
I ran crying to Uncle Jim, standing by the barn door.
We hugged, and I tried to hold the smell of him,
of Vermont -- Old Spice, oatmeal, rotting leaves in crisp October air.
"Oh, kid, you and me, kid ... you and me," he said.
But the car was waiting, all packed.
My grandparents yelled one more time, to come.
He stood alone, waving goodbye, his head held
to one side, a war injury.
Perhaps that's why he drank.
Or maybe it was living so far away from us,
in a wild place, where snow is measured in feet.
On winding roads, I cried for two hours, through valleys of orange and yellow and graveyards of granite, where men with stovepipe hats and ladies with hoop skirts lay side by side underneath the green.
A blur of steeply pitched roofs went by.
Was Uncle Jim, by now surely in his house watching snowy TV, crying, too?
Uncle Jim is dead, at least he told me so, as he stood by my bed one night.
Even now, when I think of Uncle Jim, and how he held me, what he said to me in 1963, I still cry.
cast two lines,
one shaded dark, one light
upon the carpet where I lie still.
This is winter light in the afternoon of my discontent.
Why cannot I be happy with this small glory; why must I yearn for the blinding light of summer,
when the carpet on which I sleep will scorch my back with heat and blind my eyes, making me flee the sun in search of shade, where I will think with fondness of snow and ice?
I have this image
of Him and me
in a pasture.
It is bordered on one side by a wall of stones,
dug up from the soil by generations of worriers
Behind us is a narrow dirt road,
protected by Sugar Maples flaming
in their orange clothes.
Some birches are standing close by.
They say things I do not understand
but find pleasant.
And so when they do speak,
I take notice, as if I did know.
The sun reaches inside
me and heals every rawness, all pain.
We sit there,
He and I.
Our arms are about each others shoulders
like two boys
who’ve not yet let the world
fill them with shame.
We gaze across fields
destined to die.
But, for now, they smell
sweet from dewy hay that has been cut and rolled,
waiting for the barn.
Silence is our dialogue.
Some hawks in the sky seem drunk
from the bounty of this last warm day.
They take daredevil plunges toward earth
as they play.
Ghosts who scare themselves once told me
that this love is won only
But this is a myth;
it is not His way.
All I need to do
This is simply enough
and all I ever want.
By DON MUNRO
Moon River …
you once held my Huckleberry friend,
the two of us ... after the same rainbow’s end
in your timeless rhythm
as I pushed him in his swing,
chipped on the edges,
showing rusty metal underneath
because we were so poor.
My heart was filled with joy
even as he cried from the pain of
being in the cold world. So new.
He would come to me and I would sing:
“Wider than a mile … I’m crossing you in style
And then when he left, his eyes would search the
blurry, dark images
for me … just me.
Sometimes when he came back, he would be
smiling, blindly searching.
“Two drifters off to see the world…there’s such a
lot of world
And when I told him he was my Huckleberry friend
and I looked
into the pool of emptiness ... his brown eyes,
I could swear he knew me, all of me,
right from the very beginning.
Smiling thoughts – a rope
that helps me fight off sadness
I climb to the sun
would go glass-smooth.
But forests are dark places,
and your children are no longer innocent.
I now shed
So pour your wrath down from above
scorn me too.
Denim-blue sky wakes,
cotton puffs of charcoal clouds,
frozen morning light.
There are too many times when my eyes open and it’s still dark.
It’s useless to think that I’ll go back to sleep, and it’s no good at all to lay in bed and watch the passing parade of worries that comes marching down the Main Street of my mind. When I do that, the entertainment seems to take on its own life. The parade grows longer, more spectacular, with the noise of marching bands, my thoughts, growing louder. Clowns scurry ahead of the band leader, throwing red balls in the air. There are too many balls to count.
The best thing I can do for myself is to rise from my bed. But there are days when it seems too much to bear being home before the rest of the world rises. There’s just too much emptiness in my small house.
I leave, escaping to DD's, where I sit and sip my coffee over a newspaper. Sometimes there are others sitting waiting for the light to come, too–like the woman who gives an animated “Hello” to everyone she meets, staring too long into our eyes. She takes out her cell phone to call a friend about the rashes on her legs. Something is biting her during the night. Raj and the other DD workers snicker, and I am drawn to–but at the same time repelled by–her morbid troubles.
Sometimes, in the winter, it seems as if the time I spend in the dark before the light comes is endless. I don’t think it’s normal for darkness to last so long; it’s probably one of the punishments for eating the apple in Eden.
I much prefer the early light of June and July, when the morning allows the gentle unfolding of life around me. Somehow, when the sun is in the sky at 6:30 a.m., a passing gasoline truck rattling my windows does not sound so lonely. Nor do I mind the sun revealing the stains from spring rains on my windows … or the birds loudly announcing their presence in the trees. Their manic chirping awakens schoolchildren eagerly counting down the days til summer.
When the darkness is especially long, and I have already sought out the comfort of others who cannot sleep, I will sometimes return home and do what I am so reluctant to do — sit still. I take up my position in a special chair near a window that looks out onto the street. I close my eyes and listen to the heated rhythms that only my body can make. My breath … my ins and outs.
But I wonder; why is it so hard to be still? Especially in the dark before the light.
Snow falls on the brittle leaves of birch trees,
their branches miraculously overlooked by the December wind.
It makes a sound like the marching feet of scary Germans rushing through Poland.
Snow, mixed with freezing rain,
falls hard on the roof of an unheated barracks in Auschwitz,
filled with men and boys in pajamas.
It sounds not unlike the far-off thunder of the radio in the commandant’ s house,
the angry voice of the Fuhrer.
Snow, descending from the sky like shaved ice, on a brittle day,
5 maybe 8 degrees.
It covers the makeshift roadblocks in the streets of Warsaw,
making little mountains — so pure on the outside but fetid, rotten, corrupt beneath the fine powder.
this ice falling to the ground,
sounds like Russian boots jumping over the mountains.
Rain in Gdansk,
a fine mist,
the smell of the sea.
It covers the streets, where men whisper things that will someday be heard
and old women fall on their knees to pray the Rosary.
it smells of freedom.
What is happiness but the falling away, however short, of suffering?
Would I hear the haunting, beautiful wind without
the small spaces created by my earphones?
Would I know the joy of a child's laugh
if I didn't yearn for it to erupt from my own belly?
The sight of the first yellow crocus
could not be so kind without the cruel snow
that tries to hide it.