Thursday, April 10, 2008

Russell Thorburn: Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged

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Ambassador Bridge

We wanted to set the world right
on the Ambassador Bridge, returning
over a mile of steel to the American side.
We wanted the presence of the earth, the river
below lazy in its blueness like a sleepwalker
raising his hands to this mystery.
We looked down and knew goodness
with my lover’s baby in her arms,
and our friend innocent enough
to be a teenager. We were stopped
coming back to Detroit from Windsor,
our trunk searched, revealing dirty
laundry, a bag of detergent the officer
thought was drugs. We laughed
until he wanted to know our age.
Show me your ID photo, anything
to tell us why you are so young.
And for a moment we held our breath
prisoners of paranoia, naïve and lost.
And she was our runaway friend,
or so the Canadian thought.
Oh, to be that young again, as if one
of us were a runaway teenager,
and we, perhaps, kidnappers –
and with the baby in her arms, my lover,
her eyes heaven and looking
to be one and good with the world
from our excursion to Windsor
and the art museum. Our communion
with paintings and the sea gulls later,
with their tilted wings, forming a narrative.
And the Canadian officer
checking ID photos, his jaw sticking out
like a Maple Leaf flag, not letting us go.
Oh hosanna of his hands – and the river
in its blue painting, sun speckled,
a nameless feeling of having been
already painted by a crazy man,
soulful in the way of Van Gogh,
trying to make the world turn good.

Buy the book

A memoir in poetry drawing upon childhood, love and loss, with a french turn to film, especially Truffaut, in explaining the human spirit.
Russell Thorburn’s Father, Tell Me I Have Not Aged is as sure-footed and persuasive a poetry collection as I have come across in a long time. To say it both devastates and delights with its insights is simply to acknowledge the book’s depth and accuracy of emotion, its abiding humanity, and its vigorous pursuit of linguistic exuberance. I was not only moved by what I encountered in these poems, I was compelled. This is poetry of the first order. – Jack Driscoll

Read the Metro Times review

Russell Thorburn is the author of Approximate Desire (New Issues Poetry, 1999). His poems have appeared in a wide range of literary journals both on and off line, including Briar Cliff Review, Full Circle Journal, LitRag, Parting Gifts, Passages North, Poet Lore, Praire Schooner, Puerto del Sol, The Quarterly, Quarterly West, Sou'wester, Third Coast, Willow Springs and Witness. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and has been awarded creative artist grants from the State of Michigan. Since 2000 he has been teaching poetry in Upper Peninsula schools through Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs. He has taught college classes at Marquette Branch Prison and Northern Michigan University. He is editor of numerous poetry books. He lives in Marquette, Michigan, with his wife, Emily, and three sons, Gabriel, Christopher and Michael.

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