Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Virginia Tech"

Film loops roll all day:
College kids, police running,
Another cable news orgy of violence
That Dylan Thomas might refuse to mourn:
Young dancers who will not see the stage,
Second Amendment rights upheld.
Politicians, journalists, poets
Insinuate themselves upon the grief of others.
What can be remembered that might help?
Two things: that college cheer,
Incongruous at first,
A cry of pain and hope;
And the old professor,
The Holocaust survivor,
Rising bravely to protect his students.
I picture him moving toward the door,
I’ve seen worse than this.

Epilogue: Haiku

Across the campus,
Cell phones in lifeless trousers
Ringing, still ringing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"To Our Son-in-Law Returning from Iraq: April 2003"

That you were a writer and not a soldier
Made you no less brave,
Your war short, hard to defend,
But no less noble.
You went to report on things Homer had seen,
In a land older than Hector.
We found you on a map of unknown places,
Read your dispatches and heard you on TV:
We tasted sand and young men’s fear.
We did not attend rallies of protest or support
But went instead with your sons
To soccer games and preschool plays.
I do not pray much but prayed for you.
We read your coming-home piece
And thought of Odysseus.
We tracked your journey—Kuwait, London.
That night I went back downstairs after midnight
And turned on the computer again,
To be sure that your plane had touched down.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"At the Laundry"

Summers I worked at the laundry,
Money for college. This was in the ’50s,
People still got polio then.
We washed the dingy garments of the shoe towns
(We still had them in New Hampshire then)
And the fine percale of the folk
Who lived by the lake down gated roads.
The girls who did the folding
(We called them girls then)
Would offer coarse jokes
About the bed sheets of the rich.
Caught, then as now,
Somewhere in the middle,
I passed wrenches to Neil, our boss,
As he straddled the ancient boiler,
Expert turnings of things we chose to think
Kept us from blowing up.
He nursed and finally lost a son to polio.
For forty years I went by his house
And we would recall the ones
Who ran the presses or fed the mangle.
The laundry is gone, of course,
Chiropractors and aroma therapists in its space;
Gone, too, is Neil, my gentle friend,
Who valued me in a fragile time,
On hot July afternoons,
Steamy with the innocent fragrance of
Starch, fresh linen, decent toil.

"At the Laundry" received the 2007 Conway Library Poetry Award; it has appeared in Ghoti Magazine (January 2007) and in two anthologies, The 2008 Poet's Guide to New Hampshire and Tapestries (2008)

Poets and Critics Respond to Fathers and Teachers

“Like Ted Kooser and Billy Collins, Demaree is able to present singular experiences with a startling reality that rings true. It is his mastery of voice and diction, of sentiment and reality that allows Demaree to balance the personal with the global and still retain the reader’s trust...his account personal and therefore, like the other poems in this collection, specific and wonderful.”—Jillian Bledsoe, author of Leaving Newfoundland and co-editor, Ghoti Magazine.

“Each poem is a sharply focused memento of an event, a person, a scene...with a reverence for creation and a mastery of syntax that turns colloquial English into something demanding further consideration and thereby acquiring poetic weight.”—John-Michael Albert, editor of 2008 Poet’s Guide to New Hampshire.

“Demaree’s poetry is quiet and unassuming...recording sounds, images and scents, in a clear, confident voice. His art is in presenting a briefly stable moment in delicate relief.”—Gordon Lang, Granite State News.

“Robert Demaree’s poems are resonant, witty and easy to love. His range of subjects brings life to every page.”—Janine Margiotta, author of One Hundred Black Birds and publisher/editor of Blackwidows Web of Poetry.