Dec 8, 2017

Today’s poem is “Stuff” by Megan Grumbling. Her first book, Booker’s Point, was the winner of the 2017 Maine Book Award for Poetry and the 2015 Vassar Miller Prize. She is also the librettist of the spoken opera Persephone in the Late Anthropocene, a co-creation with the late composer Denis Nye, which premiered in 2017 at SPACE Gallery.

She writes, “In ‘Stuff’ I take stock of some of the myriad odds and ends collected by my 86-year-old friend Booker, a woodsman and jack-of-all-trades from my home town of Wells. His love of collecting seemed to be about something more than just the things themselves – he saw and loved the many lives of things, their movement from one set of hands to the next.”

by Megan Grumbling

You come to call on Booker, ring his bell:
Draw back the hammer hanging there and bang
square, hear—the secondary crusher jaw
he scavenged of the quarry’s graveyard scrap.
An iron lock once thrust down through the top
and oscillated, moved just half an inch
to crush the rocks that fell down in between.
But makes a good bell, too. As loud as hell.

He lets me in on matter here at Ell
Pond’s pell-mell thing museum, naming the source,
the use, the quirk: The etching of a fox,
its mouth rue-full of tail feathers, he snatched
from Morrow’s farm; the axe poised pine-beam high
once cracked ice blocks; and frozen in this jug’s
pale blue, old air’s still there. He taps the glass:
A ring comes, short but clear, safe in the well.

This monster crock he bought unseen, he tells
me, holds just tinder now, not scalding pigs,
but in the turning over, use to use,
something is struck, an echo, sundry deals,
the four of everything he’s got in here.
In so much matter there are clamors, clanks,
tolls of the old. I hear him answering
with love of some substance, some decibel.

Poem copyright © 2016 Megan Grumbling.
Reprinted from Booker’s Point, University of North Texas Press, 2016,
by permission of Megan Grumbling.