Jeffrey Woodward, with the exception of abbreviated stints in California, New Mexico
and West Virginia, has resided in the Upper Great Lakes Region for much of his
life. He graduated with honors from Eastern Michigan University, having
majored in language arts (linguistics) and classical political theory. He
then indulged his wanderlust and succumbed to his latent bohemian tendencies
by traveling widely for a few years, predominately throughout the lower 48
states and the Caribbean. Woodward later translated his very practical
education, originally inspired by a wish to pursue a law degree, into a career
with a Kafkaesque governmental bureaucracy best left unnamed to protect the
innocent. Today, he resides in Windsor, Ontario, Canada but commutes daily to
Kafka’s Castle in Detroit, Michigan. An American citizen by fortune of birth,
he has not sought citizenship in Canada, being content to remain a permanent
resident. His poems and articles have been published widely in North America,
Europe and Asia in various periodicals,
including Acumen (England), Blue Unicorn, Candelabrum
(England), The Christian Century, Connecticut River Review,
Envoi (Wales), Fantasy Commentator, Galley Sail Review,
Gryphon, Haiku Scotland, Hrafnhoh (Wales), International
Poetry Review, Invisible City, Lines Review (Scotland),
The Lyric, Nebo, New Hope International (England), The
Outlaws Sketchbook, Piedmont Literary Review, Plains Poetry
Journal, Poem, Re: Arts & Letters, Second Coming,
South Coast Poetry Journal, Staple (England), Studio
(Australia), and many others.
To go and drift far out
Or risk a tattered sail,
Should any wind avail,
Nor trim, nor tack about.
To set the keel, at last,
Against dead calm or show
Of sea-spray; to let go
Of all one held too fast.
Unmoored, whatever tide.
And if the hull wants caulk?
Air only buoys the hawk
And whitecaps soon subside.
To glide by weather vane
And harbor-light, to spy
Drowned wrecks and yet pass by:
That would be but to gain
On depths unfathomed and
To greet with level stare
The plain, unhindered air
Far from least sight of land.
That would be worth the day:
To ship out, nor look back,
All with a gannet's knack
For the dead-reckoned prey.
To slip away, nor ask
Surf's favor or draft's leave;
To strike (that's it!) and cleave
The sea's engaging mask.
Such going, having gone,
At one with wind and wet:
That would be right to set
Against a painted dawn.
Exulting, with the rinse
Of foam on board, to earn
A true, if late, return:
That would be recompense.
The Ghost Town at Sunset
The kestrel, in the cold, abiding light
Over abandoned storefront, auctioned farm
And rummaged steeple, wings and heralds night,
And plummets to the stiff autumnal grass
With timeless poise, and asks nor wind nor birch
To witness this perdurable trespass.
First published in Candelabrum, Wisbech, England
Splendor of the Sun
Light is the aureate-ankleted morning
And flax over sable will favor and strew.
Light is a dragonfly, lilies adorning,
As monarch to tansy or mantis to rue.
Light, ever lighter than cottonwood-litter
Adrift from the catkin, light calcining air,
Answers the lively, if alien, twitter
Of waxwing and titmouse in withy and tare.
Light is a maker of mercies at leisure,
Apprenticing lakes and the dew of the vines,
Sovereign of time, and of worlds without measure,
A cradle for riddles and quarry for shrines,
Light, ever fairing, and fairer than day,
Coif of the aether and cauldron of May.
First published in Staple, Derbyshire, England
Egrets in August
Egrets in August are light to consider, resplendent,
near-autumn a spur to their wings.
Lightly, in pairs or alone under willows, the stately,
if stilted, parade as if kings.
Formal with spindles of black for their leggings, the
waltzers skirt lotus and cattail for bass,
Loiter near stone and its litter of lichen or,
lightning in shadow, go gliding through grass.
Chalk-ruffed and wry-necked: yet wester and sedge, with
its garter snake, grasshopper, turtle and toad,
Spangle their plumage with sequins of dew or with
aglets of burr from near meadow or road.
Egrets in August delight in the eye that's so
startled it closes, but scorn a salute,
Hurdling their necks in a hoop and a whisper of
feathers to rise with the pitch of a flute.
First published in Nebo
Supernal ambassador, summer's gold,
child and heir of that store
of hyssop's and hen bane's lore,
and rank Green Man's confessor,
lion's lair, aureate fane, loyal groom
to greensward, spinney's thane,
coxcomb's morsel and hive's wain,
gem of Primavera's train,
orphan's laurel, and a garden's bootleg
with rogue-sallow salute
to mint and lily, hirsute
wind-dancer, halo to root,
yet litter, summer's lorry, town to tare,
whose hoar burden shall be
of Earth; and fare forth lightly.
First published in Acumen, Brixham, South Devon, England.
This poem, in the poet's words "seeks to reproduce in English the Welsh englyn
unodl union stanza."
Coffer, Crib and Crypt
For the coffin and the cradle and
the purse are all against man
-- Christopher Smart
What mortally and from the womb began
To tax the coffer, moralist, rehearse.
What wills, what thwarts: is this a Caliban
Or heir to a purse?
What quietus, implicit in the crib,
Yet draws the unnerved mother with a rattle,
With lullaby, lullaby, little rib,
And suchlike prattle?
Shall this not grow so tall as lamb to heather
Before close watch forsake it for mere gruel?
Five shepherds, without compass, cry the weather
Their native school.
Accomplished hand, involuntary flinch,
Choice saint or mage, should calendar commend:
Which breaks, O fabulist, from the fell clinch
Of a breathless friend?
Whether this fall a skeleton to clay
Or bare in a second skin the empyrean's fire,
Shall coffer, crib and crypt, by humbler day,
Have it for hire?
First published in Plains Poetry Journal
Profile from the Left
Frail vanity, proclaiming righteous war
On utter strangers, chiefly Ivy brats
With laissez-faire Van Dyke, meerschaum and tweed,
And prudent mistresses and liberal wives,
Or risking heavy wagers on the poor
Who prove, all in due time, but modest rats --
Scant Pilates, feeble Herods -- with their mead
Apologetics for their austere lives:
Your envy cries, unheard, at each great door,
Prophecy's faint, the fat on fat yet feed
Oblivious to whetstone-hunger's rasp,
And all the bloody vengeance justice swore
To harvest in the broadcast of wrath's seed
Is a bubble that a child would vainly grasp.
First published in International Poetry Review
I know not why, on that most ample night,
I turned my back against the avenue—
The mistletoe, the carolers, the light—
And down a crumbling chapel-walk withdrew.
It was not with indulgence or belief
That I tracked snow, so smooth, silver and fresh,
Stepped hurriedly, and without joy or grief,
To balk before a crude, forsaken crèche.
That Holy Family, lamb, ass and ox
Should lie down commonly and meanest straw
And rafter quell the rude easterly knocks
Were mercies, I thought, tempering rite and law.
Yet close against the bolts of His shut keep,
My quarry cowered, clutching rags in sleep.
First published in The Lyric