People ask me, “Rustin, when are you going to give us a free-of-charge peek of that award-winning book of yours?”
I say, “My fine people. Will I hide my light under a bushel? NO! I’m going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! Take a paper plate from the head of the buffet, say grace, and have yourself a heapin’ helpin’. And uh-one, and uh-two… Myron, sound the accordion!”
Rustin Larson ‘s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Saranac Review, Poets & Artists and other magazines. He is the author of The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009) and Crazy Star (selected for the Loess Hills Book’s Poetry Series in 2005). Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino Magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation among others. A seven-time Pushcart nominee, and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 & 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007 & 2008, and he was a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival in May 2012.
Challenging a reader’s perspective while remaining accessible, direct and vulnerable, Rustin Larson magically turns the routine into the extraordinary. His ability to craft memories, whether shaded, flickering or luminous, entices readers of Bum Cantos, Winter Jazz, & The Collected Discography of Morning to linger, examine and encounter the significance of seemingly routine lives. Larson elegantly uses detailed, sensual images, chiming rhythms, and well-chosen, well-placed words to evoke layers of thematic content. Rustin Larson’s poems entertain and inform while examining the many facets of the lives we endeavor to accept, enjoy and use for good purpose. -Michael Carrino, author of By Available Light
Larson writes like an angel, but one who’s willing to work both sides of the street. -John Peterson, Wapsipinicon Almanac
Like Odysseus, Larson has been trying to find his way home, or at least to redefine that home. Larson’s vehicle for his journey is the process of writing itself, which he has dedicated himself to and which he knows can be both circuitous and serendipitous. But the writer who pursues his craft, like Odysseus who pursues the journey home, must have patience… the poet and his journey are one. -Stephen Schneider, Pirene’s Fountain
Each poem in Larson’s book is packed with as much detail as a short story. The narrator often alludes to literary works, famous as well as infamous people, easily identifiable locations on the globe, and renowned historical events that either relate to the poems thematically, or place the memories in history for the reader. The poems do not adhere to any one form, but rather, they take form as their contents require. Larson’s writing style is multifarious. -Stephen Page, Buenos Aires Herald
From moment to moment, Larson is surrealistic, Proustian, stand-up-comedy funny, dead serious, sad, ecstatic, deadpan. In Larson’s multitude of stories and modes, there’s always some layer of the writer concerned with craft, with metawriting… Write on, Rustin, write on. -Vince Gotera, North American Review
Pavese was obsessed
with hills and women and night.
When tired, I find myself longing,
but not for this place.
A single-engine plane
low overhead; sun shining
on the leaves of the sycamore.
Pavese was obsessed
with wandering and returning.
We spend most of our lives returning.
This stone, eroded by sun and wind and rain,
will look like that woman, sentient
to a single curled, golden
leaf that rattles across
the gravel path. I could see it
even if I were blind.
Pavese was obsessed with hills
He wrote one great poem
that really wasn’t about the sea.
Today, I walk as far
as I can. Near some farm-
pasture, cows grazing. The land
undulates and curves in long loaves
of soil and grass. There is a pond
mid-distance, fringed by yarrow,
Sometimes I think I can walk forever.
I skirt around
a tree and its huge roots,
imagine I am on a narrow
mountain pass, a bundle
of peacefulness and zero blame.
Back on the road, I nearly step on
and crush and kill
a tiny snake no longer
than a #2 pencil
and about as thick.
It immediately convulses
in a coil to strike.
I step over it,
and turn half-fondly to look,
but it keeps its poise
and rears back its head.
Summer. Grand Grandfather
and Great Grandmother Curin
sit on the running board
of their Model A.
Trees are full and it’s Sunday
because there is the church
behind them. He has his pipe
in his right hand.
His overalls are his best and
clean– a thick blue shirt, crisp.
She wears a limp dress
with a pattern of the sky,
a swarm of lightning bugs,
pendant with the smoky red
luster of garnets. She is small,
heavy; he, thin, moustached
and smiling. On his right knee,
his grown daughter’s shadow
appears: a photographer
with butterfly wings.
ATTACK THE BALL
My father says, pitching it to my glove,
“Don’t let it attack you.”
I taste the leather, pound my fist
In the pocket, feel the crack
Of the planet hitting my palm.
Attack the ball, kick the earth,
Invent the soil, sweat and let
The trees applaud in a gust,
Throw the spinning world we must
Toward each other, father and son,
While neighbors lacquer their hot rod
The color of mid-autumn
And the fumes make us high. Attack
The ball, catch a bomb, launch a missile,
Throw for home with the eyes of raccoons
In the burdock, and eyes of sparrows
In the elms, branches rotting and falling,
Twigs we call first,
Second, and third, utility pole we call
Foul, gopher dust and the smoky breeze
With October flaming in the trees.
but not the life lived. Near exhaustion, but
what have I done? On a whim, I take a shovel
to the yard and dig. Neighbors splay their blinds to watch me.
What is down there? I find coins and a bunch of bones.
I find an old telephone and an iron and a hit pipe some
teenager must have chucked in a panic. I find old blue
and brown medicine bottles, a cameo ring of a girl
with a garland in her hair. There are large rusted needles
and nails and hinges from cabinets.
There are porcelain knobs and shards of crockery.
There is the barrel and cylinder of an old pistol–
knife blades and tarnished silver spoons.
I dig until the moonlight fails me and I can see nothing
forever. Then I sit down on the edge
of what I am and let the wind sing in my mouth.
THINGS I TELL MY CHILDREN
There is a giant eyeball living
under the staircase.
There is a giant eyeball
and seven dancing devils.
Yes, I can make you a bird suit
so you can teach yourself to fly.
Never forget you are an alien life form.
Some years ago my father dug himself out of his grave,
tooled around town
in a yellow ’75 Impala.
It came in handy now and then.
So if in the future
you’re at your rope’s end,
to call. I will dig
myself upward, reconstitute
my ashes, press my scattered
voices together with the glue
of ether, stand by your shoulder
like a whirlwind.
My lion watches from the kitchen window
and listens to the schoolboys yelling hai-YA!
He breathes his loud purrs and then roars,
as the afternoon drains into gutters.
He would like to prowl and prance
the savanna free and eat a villager,
and I would like nothing better
than to unlock the door and hold it open.
My lion pads up to my recliner, licks my feet.
The Hungarians downstairs are afraid
of his sheer weight and power everyday
pounding above them.
He claws up to my shoulders
and gives my neck a playful bite.
I know (and he knows) he could snap me, like that!
This is what keeps us so close.
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