The Great Ones

As easy as it is to feel cold nostalgia
on a raw November night, I take

solace by escaping into Netflix.
A series about World War Two

opens with the usual preamble
of life before the conflict began,

wide shots of farms main streets,
sunsets and grain, buccolic crops,

shoppers at a drugstore window
or children riding tricycles on lawns.

I watch as ten hard years of century
collapse into painfully quiet narration

when, unexpectedly, a familiar appears:
my mentor, Paul Fussell. I assisted him

with his book about the war he fought,
feeding him thoughts on British poetry

and poets who worked for the OSS.
Fussell died almost seven years ago

yet it was good to see him live again,
his frank voice, his laughter, and tears.

He won a Purple Heart for wounds
deeper than any words. As the series ended

I felt his absence as if he’d died again.
I found a documentary from RTE

where Seamus Heaney discussed in detail,
the poetics of thickets, boles, and spawn,

and synonyms for roots and tendrils,
his narrow eyes widening with wonder

spreaking of how the marvellous is life
and miracles dwell like days among us.

He, too, was my mentor, penning a letter
when my first book dropped, stopping the flow

of a signing line to say someday
we must have our pint. His ghost haunts

the silence as the final the credits
roll to black, and I wish poetry

flowed clear and pure and ever endless
as a Wicklow trout stream over stones.

The rodium angel perched on my nib
says I must nurse its wings to flight;

the dead depart but leave their words
like seeds to plant in fertile minds

for entire worlds wait to be written
and what they voice has never been heard.

Take a deep breath, I hear them say.
Clear your head. Begin and begin.

I step out for air on my front porch
and see their stoic faces in my breath.

Bruce Meyer

Bruce Meyer is author or editor of 64 books of poetry, short fiction, flash fiction, non-fiction, and literary journalism. He is the 2019 winner of the Anton Chekhov Prize for Flash Fiction, the Freefall Prize for Poetry, and was a finalist in the Tom Gallon Trust Fiction Prize and the Bath Short Story Prize. His most recent books are McLuhan's Canary (Guernica Editions) and Pressing Matters: The Story of Black Moss Press (Black Moss Press). Both will appear in October. His previous books include The First Taste: New and Selected Poems (Black Moss Press, 2018) and the short story collection, A Feast of Brief Hopes (Guernica Editions, 2018). A book of essays about his works will appear in 2020 along with a collection of flash fiction, Down in the Ground (both from Guernica Editions). He lives in Barrie, Ontario.