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Joseph Green

Joseph Green

Listen to Garrison Keillor read "The First Day" and "The Business of Crows" on The Writer's Almanac.

Read "The Jealous Gods" on Verse Daily.

Interview with Joseph Green in The Daily News, Longview WA

What Water Does at a Time Like This

“I want to live in Joseph Green’s configuration of the cosmos, where God darns ‘the black holes logic keeps poking through / His starry socks,’ where when a crow bangs a milk carton on the sidewalk, it demands our fullest gaze. Gracefully bearing witness to those navigating the throes of grief, Green provides the best antidotes: pay attention, lighten up and listen, stand back in wonder and praise. Under the spell of Green’s exacting eye, we’re forced to consider our own temporary footing, while simultaneously being reassured we’re all in good hands.”
    -— Martha Silano

Read two of Joe's poems at Caffeine Destiny

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Poem from What Water Does at a Time Like This

My Mother Is in the Trunk

of someone’s ‘37 Plymouth, Oklahoma plates,
trunk lid off its hinges. She’s wrapped in a quilt,
riding with the cots, the tent, the picnic basket,
her face as radiant as a hubcap.

I think she must think she’s getting away
with something. She hasn’t yet been anywhere
near the place where I’ll wind up scattering her ashes.
In fact, it will be ten more years before I matter at all,

before she even thinks of me. From here I can’t tell
who is behind the wheel, who is aiming the lens,
who wants to get on with it and who it is
that wants this one moment to hold still.

That Thread Still Connecting Us

In this moving collection, a childhood darkened by a harshly critical family follows the poet into his adult world, persisting like “…winter hanging on/ into spring,” its “small hail” stinging every surface. Characterized by a wry wisdom, these haunted, evocative poems collapse the distance between past and present. With a stark, transcending grace, Joseph Green chronicles “Ordinary lives./ Ambitions spilling. Plans failing./ Dreams seeping out through the cracks.”
    -- Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate

Read or listen to 3 of Joe's poems at Terrain

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Poem from That Thread Still Connecting Us

Someone to Watch Over Me

Months after Granddad died he still hung
around in the hall outside my room,
keeping an eye on me the way he’d always done.

I accused him of spying when he was alive,
when I caught him four or five times a day
easing my door ajar and peering inside.

Get your nose out of my business, I hissed,
and the door sucked shut and he slipped
back down the hall, but then after he was gone

there was no more getting rid of him.
My mother gave all his clothes away,
the pinstriped suits, the hats, the underwear,

and scrubbed the smoke stains out of his room
and sold his bed, his dresser, and his easy chair.
But I could still feel him sneaking up behind me,

distracting me from my algebra,
from the unknowns I had to isolate
among the numbers I couldn’t love,

his breath whistling soft as cotton through his nostrils,
the invisible gift of his attention lifting
the hairs on the back of my neck.

That was the winter I first sipped liquor
and first sniffed a girl on my slippery finger.
That was the winter I learned what it is to be haunted.

Joseph Green