I want to be used up by life,
all resources expended,
all reserves exhausted,
thistle picked clean,
river run dry.
I want to work to the last
minute at making and giving,
and take nothing with me.
After my last breath,
if there is anything left
unused, I’ll feel I’ve failed,
and will only be saved by those
who need what I have
coming to carry it away.
Looking for Faces in the Night Sky
These are things anyone could have made
up. The stars are nothing but stars,
and playing dot-to-dot in the night
sky makes anything possible.
Years ago from the stone porch
my grandfather pointed them out:
the lion, the great bear, the hunter’s sword.
This one he called Mary and showed me
how the stars made a woman’s face.
Looking for faces in the night sky
we string stars into shapes of things
we fear or long to remember.
I see spider, sparrowhawk, bobwhite.
This one I’ll call woman becoming
an angel, the grotesque buds of wings
sprouting in her back.
The old oak
So there was this squirrel-necked
four-eyed motherfucker who said I
shouldn’t use the word motherfucker
in a poem because it might offend
all the mothers who might not
to mention all the fuckers who
might not knowing any better
choose to read the poem and I
said yes but it expresses just
the sort of feeling I was feeling
towards the motherfucker in the poem
when I wrote the poem and he said yes
but certainly there are other
words that mean the same thing
that you could use and aren’t
you really just using the word
motherfucker just because it is
the word motherfucker and I said
yes and oh by the way
when I use the word yes
I use the word yes just because
it is the word yes, motherfucker.
My brother has never kept a single lake,
a single lost grave to himself.
Always he calls, then waits until I
can come, lets me lead the way,
find it like the first time,
proclaiming the names I know, the shapes
of bird and stone, cloud and tree.
Once in the same day I saw
a kestrel, a mantis, an arrowhead
and took it as a sign, though since
I have seen each in their own days
and miles away from each other.
I do not believe God will bend
to kiss this mouth. I do not believe
the wine will turn to blood. But something
knows the moment of sunflower,
the time of crow’s open wing,
the span of moss growing on rock,
and water washing it away.
In the pictures I remember, there is you
letting me stand on the fallen tree
as if it were mine. There is you
letting my arm rest on top of yours
around our mother. There is you
lifting me up to the limb I couldn’t reach.
This is the faith I’ve wanted, to know,
that even now we are capable of such
sacrifice, such willingness to love.
Scott Owens is the author of 18 collections of poetry and recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Next Generation/Indie Lit Awards, the NC Writers Network, the NC Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of SC. His poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac 8 times, and his articles about writing poetry have been used in Poet’s Market 4 times. Owens holds degrees from Ohio University, UNC Charlotte, and UNC Greensboro. He is Professor of Poetry at Lenoir Rhyne University, and former editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and Southern Poetry Review. He owns and operates Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse and Gallery and coordinates Poetry Hickory in Hickory, NC.