A Letter to Walter Hatke

From Prof. Jordan Smith


Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples…
-RW Emerson


I want to start this one from scratch, the slight

Drag of my pen across the notebook’s length

Before I even know the words I’ll write

In that taut balance of texture and intent,

And as for subject, well, to take as found

What’s found, the common or the commonplace

Book’s all too familiar quotations, boundaries,

Like a map’s quadrants or a portrait traced


Through mullioned window panes, of what’s left out.

A few herbs and apples mumbles RWE.

The stuff that is course… adds Whitman. Then a shout

Rocks, trees wind… (a panicked HDT),

As if this partial list’s few parameters

Might underwrite such indiscriminate

Range-finding by an amateur

Who hopes for more in less, the infinite


In something almost accidentally saved:

A crow’s feather, haggard; a fungus, lipping

A bark scrap; lichen scars on birch, a gray

Skein of moss on a pine sprig. Slip

These into the notebook’s leaves… And yet

Itemization undoes syntax; the shells

Emerson took from the beach, bright and wet,

Apart from it were dead weight on his shelf,


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