Poetry by Ed Higgins
Professor Emeritus of Writing and Literature Ed Higgins has been teaching at George Fox University for over four decades. His classes have covered poetry, the modern novel, world literature, science fiction and much more. While officially retired now, he still teaches part-time. He's also published an extensive body of his own poetry. Here for your enjoyment are a few selections.
It’s always about loss,
this kind of epistemology
philosophers regard with dread.
And we can fool ourselves with thinking.
Like the grandfather I read about recently
who picked up his four year old grandson
in two pieces on a Baghdad market street,
after a sudden car bomb there.
And then just yesterday grocery shopping,
concentrating on which broccoli florets to buy,
out of the corner of my eye
a little blond four year old girl
is running to the side of my leg
yelling grandpa, grandpa, we saw your car
in the parking lot and knew it was you.
And my son and his beautiful wife
are smiling an aisle away,
near the potatoes and sweet onions,
she holding their year old daughter
on her hip the way mothers do.
And I’m so happy to see them all there
in one piece that I begin to cry,
like a foolish, foolish old man.
1. What can we believe and know
we have not wished for only?
Sometimes just out of the corner
of either eye a blur rushes by.
That will be meaning hurrying somewhere.
This summer sixteen turkey vultures
rose circling in a July updraft above my farm.
They were soaring philosophers,
black question marks
set against the blue summer sky.
2. What does the sky breathe?
The lungs of the sky breath the truth of God,
which is sometimes love. At night all the stars
see one another, while across canyons of space
and time they shout equations of laughter
and light at the improbable earth.
3. Could you cough out your soul by accident?
No. Only angels and devils cough out their souls.
These then drift down to earth like spent leaves
or brightly colored pebbles and sea shells
where blue-green mermaids, smaller
than fairies, swim to beaches collecting them.
Some they wear like jewels in their long wavy hair.
4. And what then of the evidence against death?
Years later my friend who has moved away
apologizes for not having written sooner.
When I last saw my father, later my mother also,
each was chalky dead. Such certainity refuses all other proof.
By habit and deep roots we walk the seamed earth
its crust slowly or violently thrusting to peaks.
The seabed's womb too slits in red roiling birth.
I have this friend in science
who tells me how he learned
astrophysics. It goes something
like this: You first lean so closely into
the source of things that
distant stars, whole galaxies,
collapse as if into the eye
of a great storm called God.
And what is important then
is how long you can hold your own
eye open to the center of mystery--
which is your lense--
as if you'd just discovered
petroglyph in a dark cave
somewhere under France maybe
only you have no light
but your own imagination
and the ocean called language.
Then as if the universe itself
were lethal oxygen
you breathe wonder in
at the speed of lightheadedness.
as if ignoring
the harshest fact
and lives the design.
The poetry surgeon
Don't misunderstand me, but I must plot against you like this,
seize opportunity, so to speak, by the vital organs.
Perhaps you may suspect my gauze-masked smile,
but we've already begun the preliminaries you and I-
Note, for example, how easily you're confined here,
so desperate your need or idle curiosity.
Well, now I'll confess: I am an unlicensed poetry surgeon.
Ha, ha! that freaked you out of your Frank and Stein sneakers, eh?
A disarming technique, paralyzing humor and horror at once.
But otherwise you'd never patiently allow me
this triage I'm about to practice on your head and heart.
I must first sever your wits with these demon-edged words,
then slit up dull resistance, spill you all hallow's adam and eve
scalpel-wide open, steadily probing, shining
ruby tinged lazer-eerie, hey look out! light heading in:
A triple kleig-bright sun disk, salty-sweet with fear,
tainting the darkness there, revealing wolf shadows
and the slush of red unmelted snow.
So you see I know, I know, too,
speaking of our pain cloistered everywhere.
And my mischief is to carry terrible light lovingly there.