“Finish the Wine in This Field of Air”

Look at his picture and you might think Jim Harrison is Charles Bukowski-like. Craggy and gruff. Cigarette burning between two fingers. No-nonsense poems that allow for the occasional nonsense, usually involving alcohol.

In sustained reading of Harrison’s poems in his book, Song of Unreason, however, I’d say he’s more of a nature guy like Frost, say, or Bly. Unlike Frost, though, there’s little in the way of form poems with meter and rhyme scheme. Just off the cuff stuff that looks easy but, of course, isn’t.

Here’s the lead-off poem in the collection that gives you an idea of his range:

Broom by Jim Harrison

To remember you’re alive
visit the cemetery of your father
at noon after you’ve made love
and are still wrapped in a mammalian
odor that you are forced to cherish.
Under each stone is someone’s inevitable
surprise, the unexpected death
of their biology that struggled hard, as it must.
Now to home without looking back,
enough is enough.
En route buy the best wine
you can afford and a dozen stiff brooms.
Have a few swallows then throw the furniture
out the window and begin sweeping.
Sweep until the walls are
bare of paint and at your feet sweep
until the floor disappears. Finish the wine
in this field of air, return to the cemetery
in evening and wind through the stones
a slow dance of your name visible only to birds.