Here are some sample poems.
First, wait until the snow clears.
Pull on rubber boots with wide soles
so you will not damage the carpet.
Walk until you find a depression
where deer have rested in tall grass.
Here you will sleep.
Walk out of the bedroom and turn in a circle
until your eyes water, facing the wind
Here you will place your chair.
The roof is self‑explanatory,
but walls are something you will raise yourself.
Be sure to plan your windows.
Now call your friends
and gather sticks for a fire.
If it snows before daybreak
you will have to begin again.
In North Dakota we plant early, and we
open the ditches before the river thaws.
The water you get must last.
We sow more seed each year than we’ll need,
in case the spring’s dry and the summer hot,
or the cattle will die next winter.
He said this at harvest time on the Marne,
in the earthquake evenings with no stars,
the farmland shaking like a slaughtered cow,
and in the machine gun mornings, the tin
cups, the coffee burning his numb lips.
He said it again, alone in the muddy trench,
his hearing stunned, his limbs quaking.
He was saying it when they found him,
and he repeated it like a liturgy
to the sterile hospital walls.
Forty years later he still talks about it
as his sister smiles and helps him drink
coffee. Her grandchildren laugh at his stories‑‑
Shaky Charlie. Every month she drives him to Fargo
where he says it again and the doctor laughs.
They all remember the prairie of his youth.
When the policemen come to arrest me
for forgery, I hide out in the garage
where I learned how to write, my manual
laid out on the bench, words stacked around me
like old tires, the pools of black grease
where lines have spilled, staining the sawdust.
I watch the detective watch the house,
his junkie nose running, he anticipates
my arrest and waits for my wife to come home
from the library. He reads her the charge,
how I forged checks in three counties.
The name is right but the description fails,
the forger stands taller, pounds heavier,
a different smith. My husband looks a mechanic,
she says, and he’s much older. I grin my
toothless grin, holding a bucket of greasy
words. A blue‑suited sergeant refuses
to believe her, saying I am both
smaller and larger, older and younger,
a mechanic, a smith. Look in the garage,
she says. Modifiers hanging on nails,
the cardboard box of active verbs, the files
of proper nouns. No signatures remain,
the author gone, only the spaces where he worked.
They gather the spaces for evidence.
I escape with the narrative, some of it
leaking on the way, until my book breaks down
in Pennsylvania. When my wife escapes
and brings my tools, I begin to forge a new
silence, and new name, a new library.
Smelling the Rain
When It Was Dark Enough
At the Leonard Cohen Concert
Terry’s poems have appeared or will appear in the following journals.
Abraxas: “The Poisoned Blood”
Blue Buildings: “Two Women Leaving the Church”
California Quarterly: “The Rattlesnake Exchanges Its Skin”
Centennial Review: “The Museum of Personal History”
Chattahoochee Review: “The Empress of Iowa Sheds Her Disguise,” and “Cider Press”
Cold Creek Review: “Light and Shadow”
Concerning Poetry: “Turning Back at the Rubicon” and “How to Build a House”
Cottonwood Review: “Shaky Charlie Talks About His Youth”
formercactus: “My Only Homerun”
Front Porch Review: “Family Dinner”
Great River Review: “Poem With Nude” and “My Old Furnace”
Kalliope: “Painting the House White”
Kansas Quarterly: “The Boxer’s Choice”
The Lake: “Blue Jay”
Lullwater Review: “Her White Tattoo”
The Mantle: “Smelling the Rain”
Milkweed Chronicle: “Weather Report” and “The Weeping Willows Green First”
Poetry at 33: “Wine Stains”
Poetry Motel: “The Man Who Never Dreams”
Poetry Northwest: “The Poet’s Garage”
Poetry Quarterly: “Last Words”
Puerto del Sol: “The Empty Bottle”
Rat’s Ass Review: “At the Leonard Cohen Concert”
Riggwelter: “Ice Age”
South Dakota Review: “The Lives of a Cell” and “What to Do in the Case of a Gas Attack”
Split Rock Review: “The Crossing”
Third Wednesday: “Her Names”
Valparaiso Poetry Review: “When It Was Dark Enough”
Westward Quarterly: “What the Seagulls Know”