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Robert Vivian is the author of Cold Snap As Yearning, a collection of literary essays, and The Mover Of Bones, a novel. Both books are from the University of Nebraska Press. He also writes play and recently wrote a version of Ibsen's Ghosts that premiered at Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, NY in the winter of 2006. His essays, poems, plays and stories have been published in journals across the country. He currently teaches at Alma College in Michigan.

Robert Vivian's page at the Nebraska Center for Writers
U of Neb Press page for The Mover of Bones


Three Poems:

Jar of Honey Glowing On the Windowsill

The spirit of bees is upon you.
You enter the doorway of the sun for the first time
But it is not a sun you have ever seen,
Not a sun to blind you or to burn up your bones,
But a sun going down into the embers of a distant horizon, delivered by bees.
You glow on the windowsill without words that can speak you,
No words to taste your honey.

But bless the roof of this house with your glowing,
Bless the mouth of the one who tastes you and swallows the light of your name,
Honey-light, delirious serum of bees
Which do not know the way into the light as you do,
Protected by fury and blind instinct.
You sit in the unlit wax of candles waiting for the distant fire
To bring you into the heart of this mystery;
Take us into the lake of your glowing, show us the way into heaven--
Lead us not with a knife, a fork, a pang of conscience,
But the gleaming roundness of a spoon.

[Robert Vivian on these three poems: These poems came out of a series I was working on where the single principal of light held sway. I sought only to somehow give voice to an aspect of light under these different conditions. I hope this will continue to be a life-long endeavor. W.S. Merwin remains my mentor in poetry, as I consider him to be one of the radiant few who can turn deep listening into authentic prophetic utterance.]


Locust Tree of My After-Life

Dear locust tree of my after-life,
Will you still shed leaves as you did on earth
so that the ground burns with your holy fire—
Or will your leaves never fall and look like those in early June,
trembling and nearly transparent, rocking in your limbs forever?
Will you hold on to the light so that it never wavers, never goes out
or will there still be the chill of winter and the memory of rain
as the light fades into evening?

Will your branches still reach up to the stars?

Sometimes I think I can almost see you,
but the vision keeps fading, like clouds changing over the horizon.
Some days I think I am standing under you branches,
The skin of your living bark so close I can almost touch it
as if the light of every tree
blossomed all at once under your shaking leaves.
Each time you ask me if I have the courage to be free,
and each time I do not answer before you disappear and I stand
struck in the middle of wonder, a child again and ancient, lost in the


Robert Vivian
Alma, Michigan
Email Robert



Seeing Through Water

The pebble at the bottom of the stream is the eye of the world
            Looking through cold water
                                                                                                And it never stops staring:
Seeing that there is nothing left to give,
            The light trapped inside keeps
                        Falling into a well where there is no water.
The pebble says,
These are my gifts to you: my failures, my leaking bucket, my lack of being whole—
                        Rounded by water and time,
                                                                        By rolling, drifting, settling, watching.
If you could see what the pebble sees, would you keep your eyes open
                                                            And never blink;
Would you remain standing—or would you fall to your knees
                                    And pray to the light all around you,
                                                            Waiting for the current to move you?
How would you bear to never stop seeing, never blinking, or closing your eyes,
            Dreaming the sun into something it isn’t?
You would wish for anything to bring you up out of the water and this seeing—
            A shoe lace, a boot heel, the body of a trout where you hang
            Suspended and the gullet is sliced open like a book of wet leaves.
You would do anything to close your eyes again—even to beauty—,
                        And listen to the water coming down the small valley
Where it sings of a time when everything was one,
            When you were one,
                        When the pebble was not a broken flaw
From the one great and immutable thing.

[from Cross Currents (Winter 2003)]


These poems are copyrighted by the above listed author.  POETRY MOUNTAIN has been granted non-exclusive online publishing rights by the author to place these poems on the pages of this Web site.  All other rights belong to the author.  According to U.S. copyright law, you must obtain written permission from an author to reproduce his or her work.  We have provided email links to help facilitate this contact.

Last Updated: Mon, July 10, 2006
©2006 John Struloeff -- All Rights Reserved.