Monday, November 1, 2010

High Water Mark by David Shumate

I love my Writer's Almanac newsletter and have found some interesting new poetry books recommended by them.  This one by David Shumate caught my fancy.

I found his poems to be simple and easy to read, yet funny and literate and thoroughly enjoyable.  Here's one:

The Buddha of Arithmetic

He spends eternity counting the contents of the universe.  How many of these...How many of those...He arranges them in groups of tens.  Hundreds.  Thousands.  He prefers round numbers.  That way when someone picks an apple or an opossum sacrifices itself under the tire of a car, he just traces his way back to the nearest ten.  In this expanding universe, it's an unending task.  But he never complains.  It's all the same to him.  If he weren't keeping track of the numbers he would be listening to prayers or granting boons or performing a miracle from time to time to keep us intrigued.  His hours are regular.  His work routine.  He could just make up the numbers and spend his days out on a southern planet where the weather is pleasant all year long.  But he knows he needs to provide a model for all of us.  This is the 42,718th poem written on this planet today.  And it's not yet noon.

Here's one of the more serious entries:

Shooting the Horse

I unlatch the stall door, step inside, and stroke the silky neck of the old mare like a lover about to leave.  I take an ear in hand, fold it over, and run my fingers across her muzzle.  I coax her head up so I can blow into those nostrils.  All part of the routine we taught each other long ago.  I turn a half turn, pull a pistol from my coat, raise it to that long brow with the white blaze and place it between her sleepy eyes.  I clear my throat.  A sound much louder than it should be.  I squeeze the trigger and the horse's feet fly out from under her as gravitry gives way to a force even more austere, which we have named mercy.

Overall, I found it to be a sweet little book.

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