Stephen Ratcliffe – Five Poems from HUMAN / NATURE

Stephen Ratcliffe

Five Poems from HUMAN / NATURE


upturned curve of pine branch against grey whiteness of sky

in upper right foreground, dried hemlock stalk slanting up

across from it, sound of waves breaking in channel


Grant answering the phone, asking Katherine Hepburn, “is

that you”

             Rumsfeld claiming he wants to clear Taliban

out of Afghanistan and the Saddams out of Iraq, adding

“if you want to call that ‘a quagmire’ do it, I don’t”

silver of sunlight reflecting off the windblown blue-

plane of channel, width of fog behind pine on point


song sparrows calling from tobacco plant branch in upper

right foreground, grey-white sky behind it, drops falling

into watering can next to glass back door

                                             woman on right

recalling finding The Countess from Minneapolis in New York,

whose exploration of space still holds her attention


on phone admitting she’s still in her pajamas, having started

to read Hemingway last night, wind blowing so hard yesterday

the tennis ball seemed to slow before it got to her



water moving in across the grey-green plane of the channel,

wingspan of pelican flapping across toward point above it


streaked sparrow perched on curved copper bar above feeder

in left foreground, light green of hemlock stalk against

grey-white sky above it, sound of jet passing overhead

man in black sweatshirt recalling the man from Detroit

talking about his commute, 80 percent of the city trashed

woman with hair pulled back sending large box of lavender

from the garden to a 72 year old woman in Mobile, Alabama,

who died two days after they arrived

                                        line of grey-white

fog bank moving across horizon to the left of the point,

blinding circle of sun in cloudless blue sky overhead


red house finch pecking up seeds from table in left

foreground, motion of tobacco plant leaves and branches

as wind moves across it, sound of waves breaking in channel

man at left end of table noting “nobody likes Brahms like I

do,” woman in pink thinking he said “bombs”

                                                Mahmoud Abbas

claiming “killing and destruction do nothing but plant hate,”

adding “even if we are required to make painful sacrifices,

I am prepared to make them”

                               grey-white sky’s reflection

in the grey-green plane of the channel, wingspan of gull

flapping toward the circular green pine on tip of point


silhouette of hummingbird perched on dried hemlock stalk

in right foreground, high thin white clouds in pale blue

sky above it, sound of helicopter moving across it


who rides bike across mountain passes noting “I’ve never

owned a motorcycle, because I would have killed myself”

trumpet player recalling driving in van to Steamboat

Springs, writing horn lines to someone else’s song,

patch of black ice landing the band in debt


of white cloud in pale blue sky above point, sunlight

flickering off blue-green wave to the left of GROIN sign

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