Feature Poet:

Lex Runciman





July, summer day, last year

of the car ferry to Megler, the wait

short enough—there’ll be room—

bump at the rim’s lip, our place then


kiss to kiss, narrow lane, brake set,

engine thrum, the car deck underfoot

and stairs uneven as we lurch our climb

to open rails clogged with arms,


some in motion, sunglasses turned one way.

And I see now, elsewhere and much later,

an elderly couple hatted, scarved,

April, the overcast pier at Tarbert, in Harris,


Scotland, and as we pull away, they begin,

arm in arm, so one the left hand

and the other the right—they begin waving,

at first a meek, small mime


that goes more vigorous as we go,

as they wane, soon just the two of them,

and I know I am not to look behind me

or side to side or to any upper deck,


rather to keep this parting private,

as is meant, though caught as I am, I too

watch their waving, their figures by then

one agitation, a blur


until a headland comes between us.

That last year before the bridge,

that ferry—with no whistle or shout,

it lurched, stutter-stepped, hull against sand,


slow grind and glide, stop.  Motor straining,

off.  Sky, gulls, a lapping of water.

An hour or two, so the news travels—

an hour or two and the tide will lift us free.





Say it starts on a sea coast,

basalt stacks, light on that spindrift corona

green, cream, pale blue, pink as wind takes it.


Or the story begins with clay from wet ground dug,

shaped to what a palm can hold, a dull weight

thunk on a platter centered and treadle spun


as fingers and thumbs lift it narrower, taller,

hollowed, round, while the blunt ends of feathers

wait to make pattern in and on that circled body—


not quite its story but a feature of it

and kept by firing, wish, care, and use.

If sun lights the beginning of the story


and the beginning of the story is lost,

where must we go but the year’s full dark,

as wintered birds to reassure themselves


chitter and call, and on Wednesday evenings

far, far elsewhere—across the great pond—

in Winchester’s shuttered, rain-black January,


Wednesdays, 7pm, the novice cathedral bell-ringers

in repetitive practice make startling, unlikely,

collective, bright, over-chiming imperfections—


they practice for summer’s dazzle of weddings,

they practice happiness.





Be as David Hockney’s blue barn roof

painted just at that moment it appears

ready to lift off its own red walls,

under a beechy grove its own tangled rising,

branch and stem wide curvature under sky—

and so for a few days the rowed field

colors stalk-green and bloom-yellow

or red or veined yellow-and-red

as bulbs decide and the eye declares.

So let all buttons love their blouses and shirts,

and may the personal health

of the small band of everyone you know

improve, continue, good work all day

and come good company home.


Lex Runciman has published six books of poems, including most recently Salt Moons: Poems 1981-2016 from Salmon Poetry (Ireland).  An earlier volume, The Admirations, won the Oregon Book Award. His work has been featured on Verse Daily and in various anthologies, including From Here We Speak, Spectrum 40, CutBank 40, and Alive at the Center. Individual poems have received the Kenneth O. Hanson Award and the Silcox Prize, and have appeared in such magazines as Ploughshares, Southern Review, New England Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Crannog (Ireland), and Stand (UK).

Table of Contents | Next Page