The poems in Lex Runciman’s Unlooked For arise from the felt sense that experience – whatever it is – goes by too quickly, leaving little chance for real consideration or sufficient understanding. What did we just see, or hear? What happened? What do we make of it? What does it make of us?
Yet amid such daily haste and distraction, we must make choices – thoughtful or spontaneous, conscious or mysterious, frivolous or life changing. How do we negotiate the moral and mortal complexities? How might we inquire and reflect? And crucially, how might we talk back?
These poems embrace image and voice, loss and its consolations, the light and the dark. They range from Oregon to Ireland, and Velasquez to Virginia Woolf, from slugs to hissy possums to dogwoods and iris "like silks / draped all over themselves." Written in a time when public utterance has too often become coarsened, accusatory, selfish, or plainly false, the poems in Unlooked For work to establish and maintain “a margin of trust.”
Song of Bowl and Cup
cup of anger cup of sleep
bowl of honey bowl of grief
cup of water bowl of blossoms
cup of whisky bowl of sky
cup to be shunned bowl to be shared
bowl to be set down
cup of justice cup of want
bowl to be set down
cup of ochre cup of glass
bowl of the nest of blue eggs
song of bowl cup of song
absent one the other will do
If the Forecast Holds
If the forecast holds, this rainy spell
will lead to an infrequent snow, all colors white
and all shapes softened, pristine in a blue dawn.
A new year will see birthdays, new divorces,
broken bones, hearts opened, hearts closed.
Raspberries will fruit and apples ripen, green
or speckled or red, and one late September evening,
windows open, someone will be singing,
operatically, even the crows gone still.
This and more will occur as foretold, until the last day,
when every bit of it slips unknown to the disappearing
and final past – though of course here we are,
you and I, listening or reading, listening, reading,
looking up from the words even now.
from Picture Too Large to See
We see what he's not painting.
He stands in a room, airy and high, figures to his left
resplendent in the lace and frills of the Spanish court.
Royal and God-anointed is the center front girl,
her ivory gown best lit by the window right, her days
no spontaneity, no wish unmet, and no one could know
how young she would die. Commentators will tell you
more of who is who and what what, but really it's too tall,
too wide to see all at once. You have to face it,
let haste go slack – you have to choose how to look:
what's not there, what is, this person or that,
the way an intricate ribbon in bows attaches a sleeve,
a conversation you’ll never hear, a sated dog,
farther back, a door, a stair, someone coming, going,
ever turned to see who you are.
Poems Copyright © Lex Runciman 2023