phren-z header logo

SCW Logo

Photo by Don Rothman

Current Issue
Archived Issues

Five Poems from Even So: New and Selected Poems
By Gary Young


I once found a smooth, round stone, and I carried it in my pocket. If I’d believed in luck, I would have carried it for luck, but all I wanted then was ballast, something dense and durable—the weight of the world. This morning, after a hard rain, a bird is singing in the ferns below the house. Little wren, my stone, I would sail you across the sky.


The skunks and the deer are in rut again. They bolt from the roadside and stagger into traffic, blind with lust. A skunk was hit on the highway north of town. There was a long streak of gore, a greasy smear on the asphalt. Whoever passed it looked away, but they couldn’t escape the stench. It’s autumn. The monarchs have returned to the eucalyptus grove, persimmons ripen on their slender stems, and the walnut drops its leaves. In the desert, where the war goes on another year, yellow dates hang in heavy clusters from the palm trees.


This tumor is smaller than the last one, he said. I’m going to cut it out, and then do my best to stitch you back together. He leaned forward, and pulled a blade across my leg. Smoke rose from the open wound as he cauterized the tiny veins, and while he worked, he spoke to me. Every body is a machine, he said. When they break, I fix them. But there’s an art to it, he said. We have to coax some kind of magic or luck out of the body. Some patients die, he said, and others find a way to beat the odds. That’s what I expect of you. Do you know what I’m saying, he asked? I nodded while my breath kept pace with the morphine drip. Good, he said, and he put his knee on the table for a better purchase. I watched my leg jump and fall as he jerked on the sutures. That should hold, he said, but you’re going to feel it for a while.


The earth submits to seasonal drift. The stars slide, and the planets swing higher over the horizon every day. This morning the sun sent a shaft of light through a rift in the redwoods; it followed the steep angle of the canyon, skirted the stream, the wild azalea, the granite cutbank, and shone on the brick stoop beneath the stone arch at our gate. It rested there only for a moment, but my son found it. He sat there warming himself, and anyone watching the light play over his body could have believed he was made of gold.


In western Massachusetts, a man wandered into the woods to live alone. He tried hunting, but the only animals that stood their ground, the only animals he could catch were skunks. The man was sprayed, of course, but he caught them, ate them, and dressed in a cloak of rancid pelts. When he was found, the scent was on his breath, his skin, and when I heard his story, I thought, comrade.

The five new poems showcased above can be found in Gary Young's upcoming book, Even So: New and Selected Poems, to be released in March 2012. Gary will read at Bookshop Santa Cruz on April 11, 2012 at 7:30.

Gary Young Photo
Gary Young is a poet and artist whose books include Hands, The Dream of A Moral Life, which won the James D. Phelan Award, Days, Braver Deeds, winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize, and No Other Life, which won the William Carlos Williams Award. Even So: New and Selected Poems has just been released from White Pine Press. He has received a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America. He edits the Greenhouse Review Press, and his print work is represented in many collections including the Museum of Modern Art and the Getty Center for the Arts. He teaches at the University of California Santa Cruz, and is Santa Cruz County’s first Poet Laureate.


Winter 2012 Issue

Wallace Baine
Don Rothman
Karen Ackland

Carolyn Burke
Farnaz Fatemi
Gary Young

Clifford Henderson
Micah Perks
Paul Skenazy

Julia Chiapella

Love Letters Project
Wallace Baine
Lauren Crux
Stephanie Golino
Neal Hellman
Cheyenne Street Houck
Erin Johnson
Wincy Lui
Elizabeth McKenzie
Alyssa Young

  Current Issue/Home || Archive || FloodLight || About || Submit || Contact
Copyright © 2011 Santa Cruz Writes - All Rights Reserved