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Roderick Townley

 

Roderick Townley
 
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Roderick Townley
is a Kansan by adoption, having moved here with his family from New York City in 1990. It is in Kansas that half of his twelve published books were written. Among his works are two volumes of poetry, Three Musicians and Final Approach, as well as two volumes of literary criticism, an adult novel, several works of nonfiction, and five children's novels (the latter published by Simon & Schuster).

Kansas is where Townley, in this one way like L. Frank Baum, found his way back to childhood; for it is here that his children's novels were written. Three of them (The Great Good Thing, Into the Labyrinth, and The Constellation of Sylvie) comprise a trilogy, The Sylvie Cycle, which has been optioned for film.

Townley continues, however, his commitment to poetry, publishing in a number of anthologies and magazines, including The Paris Review, The Yale Review, The North American Review, etc. The recipient of a Kansas Arts Commission fellowship, he has been honored by The Academy of American Poets, The Peregrine Prize, The Thorpe Menn Award, and The Kansas Governor's Arts Award.


 



The Red Blouse

 

Across Kansas on cruise control

he drives toward a woman's body.

Stubbled fields flush orange

 

in the final light. He squeezes

the pedal . . . 75 . . . 80,

a mad organist playing his deepest note.

 

Ahead 200 miles, a woman

crosses a room, sweetens

her tea, meets with students. But

 

something's off. A humming

like bees, like tires over darkening roads,

patrols her mind.

 

She searches the mirror for clues.

A coil of hair, loosened, hangs

like a bell-pull. She pins it up. No

 

use. Nothing is any use.

She touches her breast lightly

through the red blouse.

 

Originally published in The Yale Review;
also in Poetry: An Introduction (4th ed.),
edited by Michael Meyer. NY, St. Martin's Press, 2004

 

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Wave

 

A trick of October light

made festive the trek we

took to the empty beach,

 

the four of us (five

counting the box

tucked in the knapsack).

 

You to thank, Mother,

for my bare feet in the sand,

brother beside me, wives

 

to the right, the sea's

blue cylinders rolling up,

rolling slowly away.

 

We fought open the lid,

looked at each other,

and waded in, two brothers

 

for once shoulder to shoulder

in an enterprise. He

dug in first, flung fistfuls

 

into the wind, flecks of

crushed bone sinking at once,

finer granules riding

 

in little cloud puffs, as if

from a last cigarette.

Then I joined in, gripped

 

by a wild, grieving joy,

till the thing was done. I let

receding water run

 

over my numbed fingers,

and stared out: blue, blue.

Lovely to turn, then,

 

and see the women

waiting on higher ground,

windblown and waving us home.

 

Originally published in The Paris Review 


Mozart's Pigtail

 

I was braiding Mozart's hair,

morning sun

 

filling the room (Con-

stanze nowhere to be seen), when

 

all at once (you won't

believe it) the man

 

jumps up and makes a run

for the piano. I trot

 

behind, still holding

his pigtail, mind you, even

 

when he sits

and starts in. I know some

 

who'd have taken offense.

Not I. I remember once,

 

I was doing Frau von H.,

I abandoned an elaborate coif

 

at a whim (I can't call it

anything else), and went

 

for swirl. She loved it. "You

are an artist!" she cried.

 

He's the same. In fact,

so lovely a largo

 

it was that I

let go, although

 

the braid unwound

and I had to begin again.


Originally published in Western Humanities Review

 

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The Silk Dress

 

You have been going down

dawdling when suddenly she

sweeps up the staircase, her

 

loose hair streaming, her dress

an avalanche of lost

messages. Turn

 

on you heel. After her.

In a moment reverse

a lifetime of error.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All poetry on this page
Copyright
by
Roderick Townley, 2006 

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