February 1999

Ben Howard


Henry Taylor

Mark Bibbins
  Sharon Cumberland
  Philip Dacey
  Daniela Gioseffi
  Brent Goodman
  Mark Halperin
Ben Howard
  Stellasue Lee
  Linda Lerner
  John McKernan
  DeWayne Rail
  David Rigsbee
  Peter Robinson
  Terry Savoie
  Joseph Stanton
  Mary Winters

David Grayson

Lloyd Schwartz

Rosa Shand
  Daniela Gioseffi

Ben Howard Ben Howard's latest book is Midcentury (Salmon in 1997).  His poetry has been published in Poetry, Chelsea, Shenandoah, Sewanee Review, and Seneca Review.  An essay entitled, "Humane Letters" appears in the Iowa Review
Reticence    Read Along with the Author

What is it but an envelope devised
to shelter those invisible desires,
those petty bigotries and rancid fears,
which would, if not protected, be exposed

for what they are? What is it but a bolt,
which keeps the stores of memory secure,
lest your house be looted by that burglar
who knows your slightest move, your subtlest habit,

your grossest fault. But what your barriers
have held at bay is not that predator
alone, nor yet the tireless voyeurs,

but that constrained intruder in your heart,
whose business is to see you as you are,
however much you keep yourself apart.

Release    Read Along with the Author

What have you wanted more than that release
from isolation?  Even a fleeting touch
on fingertip or wrist extends the reach
of your awareness to a foreign place

beyond this cell of silent contemplation,
so spacious in its way but so immune
to news of others' triumphs and misfortune.
Why then do you recoil in agitation

from inquiries and friendly overtures,
as though they might contaminate the pure
and noiseless air, the dustless atmospheres

in which, if you could have them, you would live,
your element a rectifying fire,
your silence no less potent than your love?

Interrogations    Read Along with the Author

Is it for me that you have worn a mask,
its fixed mouth and inward-turning eye
suggesting caution or humility
or something in between?  And when I ask

questions of the face that I encounter,
day by day and year by passing year,
is it a looking-glass or two-way mirror
that you present to me, its hidden center

there, or never there?  Were you to answer,
I would consider what you had to say,
as though it held the truth of your desire,

wondering all the while if what I'd heard
were your confession or your kind reply,
your artful parry or your final word.

Old News    Read Along with the Author

Those little increments
of grief: how silently

they travel in the blood
of mourners, bearing news

that makes no headlines, wears
no byline, yet remains

for years, for generations,
persisting as it must

in vein and artery,
lung and bone.  And when

its broadcast comes, its blast
is loosed into the heart,

how sudden it appears
and how remote, as though

its presence there were foreign,
its virulence unknown.



Ben Howard: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue SixThe Cortland Review