When I discovered James Scruton’s wonderful poem, Crossing the days, in 2009 I knew it would be perfect for one of our cards. I spent some time tracing James and every hour was worth it. His initial reply has been echoed many times over by James in response to all my requests! What a lovely idea! Of course you may use “Crossing the Days” for an upcoming card. I would certainly appreciate a copy of the card once it’s released. (I’ll probably have it framed.) The project sounds like one of the best, most productive and inspiring uses of poems anyone could ever think of, and I am honored that you consider a poem of mine worthy of inclusion.
James Scruton is the author of four collections of poems, including Galileo’s House, which received the 2004 Poetry Prize from Finishing Line Press, and Exotics and Accidentals, winner of the 2009 Chapbook Prize from Grayson Books. He has also won the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, the Dale Goodwin Poetry Prize, and a poetry award from the Carolina Irish Society, among other honors. He earned his M.A. in English Literature at Eastern Illinois University, his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee, and has taught at several colleges and universities in the U.S.
The only comment I have to make about the photo of my study is that, yes, that IS a cast-iron typewriter in perfect working order over on the left, and which I still use as an interim step between longhand drafts (well before a computer enters into it) for nearly every poem I write. The glare from the window in the photo, alas, makes it impossible for you to see the pasture and the woods I gaze out upon when I look up from the desk. On some days, one of our horses saunters by, nibbling at the grass, or one of the cats chases a grasshopper, usually fruitlessly, distracting me from the page just long enough for me to return fresh to the words. That is, when I’m not writing before sunrise–like anyone else, I have to squeeze in the poems when I can…
Three poems by James Scruton
THE NAMES OF BIRDS
Flicker. Grackle. Coot.
Ruby-throated this, red-headed that,
downy or belted or crested.
They swirl, excited syllables,
feathering our speech like oaths
out of Shakespeare: thou nuthatch,
bufflehead, worm-eating warbler.
Thou pied-billed grebe.
Skylark and nightingale flown,
give me something local
and down to earth, flycatcher
or thrasher, a working-man’s bird,
and, for the two of us, names
as light on the tongue as on the wing,
names to make a love-nest of
my little widgeon, my chickadee.
O Western Wind, when wilt thou blow
The small rain down can rain…
The small rain down can rain,
and the big rain, too,
not to mention the sleet or hail
or snow, depending on the time of year,
on the unseasonable weather of the heart.
This late December afternoon
the snow is so fine coming down
I can barely see it through the window,
unconvinced until I’m outside
catching it like salt across
the dark palms of my gloves.
It’s coming down as a friend of mine says
grace does, on the just
and unjust alike, asked for or not,
believed in or doubted. And who am I
to say he’s wrong, to tell him
that faith is one more word
for need so great it must be holy,
a desire for truth or peace
or another life in which to find them—
or more often just for love,
prayer enough in any wind, any season.
IN THE AGE OF THE RADIO TELESCOPE
Because the universe, it seems,
is getting bigger,
because the space is deepening
between each star,
we listen now for light,
for murmurs from some fading sun.
The night sky’s farther
than it was when we stood
hushed and hunched above a tripod
in the dark yard,
focusing the constellations
on their way away from us:
the gleam of galaxies an echo,
an ear for an eye,
the lens we squinted through
become a bowl of sound
tipped upward, open
as the black hole of a pupil.