Cold for so long, unable to speak,
yet your mouth seems framed
on a cry, or a stifled question.
Who placed you here, and left youto this lonely eternity of ash and ice, and himself returned to the dust fields, the church and the temple?
Was it God—the sun-god of the Incas, the imperial god of the Spaniards?Or only the priests of that god, self-elected—voice of the volcanothat speaks once in a hundred years.
And I wonder, with your image before me, what life might you have lived,had you lived at all—whose companion, whose love? To be perhaps no more than a slave of that earthly master:
a jug of water on your shoulder,year after stunted year, a bundleof reeds and corn, kindlingfor a fire on whose buried hearth?
There were furies to be fed, then as now: blood to fatten the sun,a heart for the lightning to strike.
And now the furies walk the streets, a swarm in the milling crowd. They stand to the podium, speak of their coming ascension ...
Through all this drift and clamor you have survived—in this cramped and haunted effigy, another entry on the historian’s dated page.
Under the weight of this mountain—once a god, now only restless stone, we find your interrupted life, placed here among the trilobites and shells, so late unearthed.
John Haines, “The Ice Child” from For the Century’s End: Poems 1990-1999. Used with the permission of the University of Washington Press.
Source: For the Century's End: Poems 1990-1999 (University of Washington Press, 1999)
A Poem Like A Grenade
It is made to be rolled downa flight of stairs,
placed under a guilty hat,
or casually dropped into a basket among the desks of the wrongheaded statesmen.
As it tumbled on the carpeted stairs or settles quietly
in its wire-wicker nest,
it begins to unfold,
a ragged flower whose raw petals
burn and scar...
Its wastepaper soil catches fire,
the hat is blown from its hook. Five or six faces are suddenly,
There will be many poems written in the shape of a grenade -
one hard piece of metal flying off might even topple a government.
I was lucky to know John Haines a bit. He spent some time at Northland College in northern Wisco. My friend, Lee Merril & I were able to spend time with him. I have learned a lot from him & in particular, his poetry. I turn to his poetry in those times when I need something to remind my of the real, organic, salmon filled world. Lee corresponded with him for several years. I will miss John Haines quite a bit. He lived a long & great life. Now is is with that thing that "...doesn't care if [he] is alive or dead."