Jim Harrison has spent much of his life in Michigan on a farm near where he was born.
His connection to rural landscapes is evident in his free-verse, imagistic poetry, which often explores human and animal drives set against an unforgiving natural world. Noting the poetry’s relation to Hemingway’s prose style in a review of Harrison’s Selected & New Poems 1961–1981, poet and critic Richard Tillinghast declared in the New York Times that “Mr. Harrison has few equals as a writer on outdoor life, the traditional heritage and proving ground of the American male.”
Educated at Michigan State University, Harrison taught briefly at SUNY Stony Brook. After the publication of his first collection of poetry, Plain Song (1965), he returned to Michigan, where he worked as a freelance journalist and laborer until he began to earn a living from his writing.
by Jim Harrison
A secret came a week ago though I already
knew it just beyond the bruised lips of consciousness.
The very alive souls of thirty-five hundred dead birds
are harbored in my body. It’s not uncomfortable.
I’m only temporary habitat for these not-quite-
weightless creatures. I offered a wordless invitation
and now they’re roosting within me, recalling
how I had watched them at night
in fall and spring passing across earth moons,
little clouds of black confetti, chattering and singing
on their way north or south. Now in my dreams
I see from the air the rumpled green and beige,
the watery face of earth as if they’re carrying
me rather than me carrying them. Next winter
I’ll release them near the estuary west of Alvarado
and south of Veracruz. I can see them perching
on undiscovered Olmec heads. We’ll say goodbye
and I’ll return my dreams to earth.
LITTLE THINGS ARE BIG by Jesus Colon
“I’ve been thinking; you know, sometimes one thing happens to change your life, how you look at things, how you look at yourself. I remember one particular event. It was when? 1955 or ’56…a long time ago. Anyway, I had been working at night. I wrote for the newspaper and, you know, we had deadlines. It was late after midnight on the night before Memorial Day. I had to catch the train back to Brooklyn; the West side IRT. This lady got on to the subway at 34th and Penn Station, a nice looking white lady in her early twenties. Somehow she managed to push herself in with a baby on her right arm and a big suitcase in her left hand. Two children, a boy and a girl about three and five years old trailed after her.
Anyway, at Nevins Street I saw her preparing to get off at the next station, Atlantic Avenue. That’s where I was getting off too. It was going to be a problem for her to get off; two small children, a baby in her arm, and a suitcase in her hand. And there I was also preparing to get off at Atlantic Avenue. I couldn’t help but imagine the steep, long concrete stairs going down to the Long Island Railroad and up to the street. Should I offer my help? Should I take care of the girl and the boy, take them by their hands until they reach the end of that steep long concrete stairs?
Courtesy is important to us Puerto Ricans. And here I was, hours past midnight, and the white lady with the baby in her arm, a suitcase and two white children badly needing someone to help her.
I remember thinking; I’m a *Negro and a Puerto Rican. Suppose I approach this white lady in this deserted subway station late at night? What would she say? What would be the first reaction of this white American woman? Would she say: ‘Yes, of course you may help me,’ or would she think I was trying to get too familiar or would she think worse? What do I do if she screamed when I went to offer my help? I hesitated. And then …
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