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The Quiet Jars: New & Selected Poems

Ron Houchin

ISBN: 978-1-908836-43-4

Page Count: 104

Publication Date: Friday, February 15, 2013

Cover Artwork: © Daveallenphoto |

Click to play audio Ron Houchin reads 'Shooting the Moon' from The Qui... play
Click to play audio Ron Houchin reads 'Machine from Animal' from The Q... play
Click to play audio Ron Houchin reads 'Horses and High Water' from The... play

About this Book

The seventy poems of this New and Selected collection by award-winning Appalachian poet Ron Houchin base themselves on a life within the spirit of place on the banks of the Ohio River.  They include a section of all new work combined with other relevant poems of lived-experience from his five previous volumes and three chapbooks of poetry published in Ireland and the US.  Offered in nearly chronological order, the poems work memoir-fashion toward insight and understanding of the life revealed at the banks of the historic river French fur trappers called La Belle RiviŤre in the foothills of the oldest mountain range of North America.   

Author Biography

Ron Houchin writes from his home on the Ohio River across from his hometown, Huntington, West Virginia.  He taught in public school for thirty years in southernmost Ohio. He has five previous books of poetry, and his work has received notoriety, including Paterson Prize and Pushcart Prize nominations, as well as an Appalachian award for poetry Book-of-the-Year. He travels often to Ireland where his work frequently appears in Poetry Ireland Review and The Stinging Fly.  His poems have been featured in a wide variety of U S venues, such as Five Points, Birmingham Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Daily, The New Orleans Review, Poetry Northwest, Puerto del Sol, The Southern Poetry Review, Hillbilly Solid (Radio WMMT) and others. His poems have appeared in Irish and American anthologies: Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology, Salmon: A Journey in Poetry, Motif I and II, and We All Live Downstream.  He reads and teaches in writing workshops on both sides of the Atlantic. Salmon published his first book in 1997.

Read a sample from this book

Shooting the Moon

Iíd fire arrows and BBs at it
by the score, never thinking what
target they finally found.

What is the moon? I kept asking.
Godís shield?  The Devilís mirror?
Itís not the perfect blister on a black foot

or the green cheese my grandfather grinned
about.  In the flat earth of my youth, I believed
only in the plain, not in books.  

Trust was straight and close cropped 
like my hair.  Why couldnít I hit 
the crescent, hanging like a banana,

with my .22?  The ammo box read,
Range: one mile.  How far could it be?
I was ten by Halloween that year 

it hung orange as a pumpkin overhead,
Godís trick-or-treat mask.  I aimed up
and up with the 12 gauge from my uncleís 

closet and waited for the wind to die down.
No fluttering leaves in the line of fire.
With the gun butt snug against my shoulder,

I squinted at the shadow of the nose
and squeezed the trigger as Iíd been shown.
Light spread over the barrel, each pellet

burned into the sky.  Shot sprayed
down round me again, likeÖspit, 
from how far?

Machine from Animal

When I was a kid, I couldnít tell
machine from animal.
The patience of those cars waiting 
all night at the curb, like horses 
tethered for hours outside saloons, 
disturbed my sleep.

In the fields, cows stood chewing
their cuds and shoving out manure.
Our washer or dryer shook 
and left a little red pool.  
My father wound a grasshopper 
up and let it leap into the weeds.  
It leaked a little oil in his palm. 

Yet, I rode our dog, and teased 
our cat, I climbed into our Plymouth 
and was driven off to school.  
I am still that kind of fool.

Horses and High Water

The first half of December, the earthy waters
stalked up the McMurty fields.
The old manís four horses went to the high corner,
near his house, to stand sad-eyed
and brown as violins.

                             When the water
covered the bellies of his tractor and his truck,
he still did nothing, as if disbelief were a sufficient dam.
Above ground like dough, full of dreadmarks, and the horsesí
sucking hooves, clouds locked into their docks.
The temperature dropped; sky melted toward Christmas.

                                  I gave up looking
out the window.  The freezing rain still caught
in the horsesí hair; ice landed in their lashes.
Each morning there was fresh hay in the highest
part of the lot.  It is in such contrasts I hear 
the caroling of despair.

                              Now, those four horses
have run far from the stable of memory.
The minute hands of snow curried everything
at midnight, saying, Remember,
there is no such thing as lost.  

Copyright © Ron Houchin 2013

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