This week’s poem from Slate is actually three poems! The poems are titled Imperial, Pandrol Jackson, and Bloodflower Sermon. It’s an exciting bonus and all three of them are written by T.R. Hummer. In addition, all three of these poems are offered on the Slates art page in audio form. T.R. Hummer reads these three pieces on the poetry page and I want to encourage you to listen to them. It’s a rare thing to hear a poet read his or her work, so take advantage!
T.R. Hummer, according to his page on the Poetry Foundation, is a poet, critic, and editor. His collections include Lower-Class Heresy (1987), The Eighteen-Thousand-Ton Olympic Dream (1990),Walt Whitman in Hell (1996), The Infinity Sessions (2005), and Ephemeron (2011). His books of criticism include titles such as The Muse in the Machine: Essays on Poetry and the Anatomy of the Body Politic (2006) and Available Surfaces (2012). He has received the National Endowment for the Arts and two Pushcart Prizes. He has taught at various institutions, including Kenyon College, Middlebury College, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Georgia-Athens, and Arizona State University, where he is Director of the creative writing program.
Without further ado, here are T.R. Hummer’s poems. Be sure to click through for the additional poems.
Imperial, by T.R. Hummer
There are few still standing now who remember
when they sold Prince Albert in a can.
He was beautifully dressed, a fine trope of a man,
with a beard, and a nose, and slender
As the riding crop the Queen used to punish him
when he forgot his place—inside the oblong tin
Farmers bought in country stores: imperially thin
like Richard Corey in the famous poem.
They were near contemporaries. But you can’t imagine
the Prince Consort doing himself in.
In my mind he rides close to the hearts of men
in work-shirt pockets; he ministers to the ways
Of colonials blind to the pressure of Victoria’s corset stays.
Pandrol Jackson, by T.R. Hummer
Along a derelict railroad, abandoned machinery takes
its last tour of duty toward rust. Another town is stalling.
Another house smolders with rot while a television rages.
Crows patrol banked cinders beside a landfill with a sign:
No Dumping. We were Jews in Austria. No, we spoke German
in Czechoslovakia—by order of the Alliance, we filed
Into a railroad car and died. No, we were black in Arkansas.
Here is a filthy contraption, like a grim lawn mower
With flanged iron wheels, Pandrol Jackson in blue paint
on its rotted housing: a rail grinder, used to polish steel
To brilliance, forgotten here as after the Rapture. And the carcass
of a boxcar warps just down the track, groaning with a cargo of bones.
Bloodflower Sermon, by T.R. Hummer
The wind has windflowers, the sea anemones,
death its endless procession of white bouquets.
We homeless ones circle a field in the guise of nightshade,
absent our own blossoming. We nameless ones drop
No petals on the sandstone patio. A turbulent shaft of light
strips us down to our essence and beats us raw.
What chance did we ever have, Great Ones, to be anything
but planted in tilth in the end, and sentenced to calcium?
I hope you enjoyed this week’s poem three-bie, so to speak. Stay tuned next week for more poetic offerings from Slate!
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan