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Professor Harp’s “Houses” among best poems of 2009

September 28, 2009

  • Jerry Harp

Jerry Harp, visiting assistant professor of English, is one of 75 poets from across the country included in The Best American Poetry 2009.  Harp’s poem, “Houses”, appears in this year’s edition of the celebrated series dedicated to showcasing the work of poets at their best. The poem first appeared in the literary journal Pleiades.



They’ve been around in dreams a long time now,
These houses where nobody lives, hidden
Along long stretches of field, accessible
If you run alone down dirt and gravel roads

Late in the afternoon when shadows start
To sift like sand.  I think you’ll know the place
Better than I.  Maybe you’ll finish this poem.
Here’s my attempt to hand it over to you:

The time.  The place.  The sound.  They fade from me
As my pen scratches across the ragged page
And the cat lounges, observing every move.
By the time I climb upstairs to sit before

My glowing screen, how many years and days
Will have gone by?  But only you will know.
Someone is sitting in an upstairs window,
Head bent beside a desk lamp shining.  You knock.

No other houses show.  There is no answer.
You cross the dusty living room.  A grove
Of alder trees, entwined in vines, appears
Out back - on the mantle, a clock without a face.

The crickets cry their stridulation from
The shade.  The nighthawk with its plaintive cry
And rush of wings shows up at the right time.
Nothing stirs upstairs.  You look in every room.

The moonlight shines through a far window.  Now
The poem begins.  The anticipated turn.
The much awaited answer from the trees.
Here is the moment when translation begins.

from Pleiades


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