The poets special to us, poets that we can turn to again and again, both for provocative thought and solace, gift us with bodies of work—progressions through which we can experience their personal journeys. When Jack Myers died in November 2009, he left us The Memory of Water (New Issues Poetry & Prose, Western Michigan University) the closing chapter of his journey. Jack’s long illness kept him from compiling the manuscript in accordance with a new title and concept. In consultation with his widow, Thea Temple, who knows his inclinations and wishes better than anyone, I tried to refine and organize this final book in a way that would please him.
Please him, yes, and honor him. Without fanfare, overlooked between West and East Coast publishing, he produced some of the most valuable poetry of his generation. He showed me just how insignificant the career and ego issues of poetry really are. He showed me that to write seriously is to live seriously, and with an abiding, ever-deepening attention to the past and an increasing sense of responsibility for the future.
It is my hope that this book will offer Jack’s many fans an enactment of the tensions and energies flowing through his last years. I hope, too, that it will welcome many new readers into an appreciation of the whole of his poetry, which is a remarkably consistent and brilliant body of work.
From The Memory of Water
Poems by Jack Myers
Doggies’ Day Out
— Because we are also what we have lost.
…………………from the movie Amores Perros
The door to the world opens
and my dog and I take a walk.
He’s tiny so he has to trot
to keep up, much like me.
With his wolf’s heart he listens,
sniffs, and pisses on each mailbox,
even after his ambition, like mine,
is long out of ammunition.
There’s nothing dangerous here,
I laugh at him. A little old lady groomer
pinned a pretty pink bow on his head
where it floats like a clichéd thought.
He doesn’t understand humiliation
because he and his image of himself
are so solidly in coincidence he sees things
in black and white, literally. He asks
am I welcome here or not?
To him the old man sweeping the sunset
behind the hills comes directly from
the default archetypal forest of his heart
where discretion and attack play leap frog
over bogs of sleep. We are brothers
with the wilderness gone out of us.
The world once beyond the end
of my thumb and his black nose
is now inside us. Everything we’ve lived
is now part of us, and this new forgetting
and confusion is the beginning of giving
it all back, becoming everything, the whole
unspooling ribbon and blur is itself a thing
of beauty. I pin a pink bow on it. It goes
through me in one long continuous shock
of recognition though it’s only a walk around the block.
I’ve lived my life as if I were my wife
packing for a trip— I’ll need this and that
and I can’t possibly do without that!
But now I’m about
what can be done without.
I just need a thin valise.
There’s no place on earth
where I can’t unpack in a flash
down to a final spark of consciousness.
No place where I can’t enter
the joyless rapture
of almost remembering
I’ll need this and I’ll need that,
hoping to weigh less than silence,
lighter than light.
I’d like to leave
on the world
I’d formerly meant.
Just a scent,
not the thud
of the thing
steaming on a plate.
Instead of “I told you so!”
let my epitaph be
the glance, the edge,
the mist. The delicately
of an innuendo
instead of the thunderhead.
The rain that fell
when I was ambitious
seemed conspiringly rushed
in my way. But the same rain
today tastes of here and now
because of where it’s been.
I’d like to be gentle
with small, great things.
They are larger
than what we think
we came here for.
I’d like to be an eye of light
that opens the air
and burns beyond ambition,
like the sun that can’t see us
and is beyond our human reach,
yet is in us trillions of times over.
Mark Cox teaches in the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and in the Vermont College MFA Program. His books are Smoulder (David R. Godine), and Natural Causes and Thirty-seven Years from the Stone, both published in the Pitt Poetry Series.
These poems create a fragile, anxious beauty in my gut. Comforting yet exposing, unnerving but soothing, cosmic but right there staring at you. What a dance. Can’t get enough of the line, “hoping to weigh less than silence.”
I’m really looking forward to picking up this collection. I love how you mention the solace in Myers’s writing. As can be seen in the three poems above, he is often able to capture the moment or momentary, and yet impart the enduring catharsis in the classic sense; his poetry washes away the pity and fear in our daily routines. Myers is a voice that will definitely be missed, and thank you Mark for putting this collection together.
I don’t think it’s possible to be a Jack Myers fan and not read these poems without arriving at, what must’ve been, Myers’ fullest sense of grief and not-grief, at sadness and not-sadness–the grateful living, the grateful dead. There is something so hauntingly pure in this poems, aware of the self’s presence and inevitable non-presence. But filled with the “Stuff” of life Jack Myers always wrote about–all that he needed and didn’t need. If this book doesn’t fit the definition of “heartrending,” I don’t know what that word means anymore. But maybe it also doesn’t at the same time.