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About this Poem 

“Being a poet who also was born in Ohio, I was once compelled to visit Martins Ferry where James Wright was born and there I saw a sundial in a yard, while I stood on a hillside looking out over the misty expanse of the town below. Wright's poem ‘Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota’ has always been a poem I admire, especially its abrupt ending. The final line of my poem makes reference to the pronoun ‘I,’ which might be compared to a sundial’s gnomon casting its shadow across American poetry.”
Larry Sawyer

Sundial

for James Wright


   The poet will seek to clothe herself in sparrows.

A motor in each leaf
distills autumn’s engines and we’re off.

Upstart cartoon morning;
     these various roosters scratch inside the eyelids
     and declare beneath the streetlamps that their
     moats are filled with vowels.

That the life alone is not wasted but
rich with a pageantry of else.
Who absconds with our best sense
and seizes us by the throat as we untangle ourselves
from lovers and, draped in fever, split the
night into halves?                  Each contains a commercial
advertising just that.

                        Despite his tactics, fully rejecting experience
the candid creator winces at the audience’s heightened
passing.
       Remain, in secret,

a pea of concern, in some harbor of ghostly direction.
        There lurks an I among those hours.

Copyright © 2014 by Larry Sawyer. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2014 by Larry Sawyer. Used with permission of the author.

Larry Sawyer

Larry Sawyer is the author of Breaking Lorca (White Hole Press, 2014). He teaches at, and is the co-director of, the Chicago School of Poetics and lives in Chicago.