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About this Poem 

“Oddly though I had no gifts as a musician, when physically making music I always enjoyed the way images volunteered in my mind along with the music. I believe Denise Levertov wrote an interesting essay on this with respect to Rilke and cows crying out in wild pasturage—also something about playing the grooves on the inner skull of human beings with a cactus stylus in the early tradition of the phonograph. Anyhow, I think it’s safe to say that, for my family, my music lessons in the house were very painful like hanging from a cross.”
—Norman Dubie

Trombone

There were carols on the kitchen radio, a late
cold night, entering the room
while straightening the blistered Navajo rug, I
remembered suddenly what the first eight notes
of hark, the herald angels sing felt like
vibrating through my body that first time—
I was eleven and unprepared,
I remembered when I was ten
and fainting in church from the sweet ammonia of Easter lilies
hosing my nostrils with fragrance
and also the emptiness of it—the lord of the dance,
in an arc of agony, up on sticks…

Copyright © 2016 Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 Norman Dubie. Used with permission of the author.

Norman Dubie

Norman Dubie

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Norman Dubie is the recipient of the Bess Hokin Prize and the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Poetry, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

by this poet

poem
for Allen

Here, on the farthest point of the peninsula
The winter storm
Off the Atlantic shook the schoolhouse.
Mrs. Whitimore, dying
Of tuberculosis, said it would be after dark
Before the snowplow and bus would reach us.

She read to us from Melville.

How in an
poem
In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens, 
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving 
there next to its darkening mother
where the very air is a turnstile…

I’m certain this woman is moved
as
poem
The birches stand in their beggar's row:
Each poor tree
Has had its wrists nearly
Torn from the clear sleeves of bone,
These icy trees
Are hanging by their thumbs
Under a sun
That will begin to heal them soon,
Each will climb out
Of its own blue, oval mouth;
The river groans,
Two birds call out from the woods