Short Spring Works—Springingly, Erik Muller

Dale Champlin, Clock Collage B, Collage, 2021



The steel toolbox swings open—
pliers, screwdrivers, tack hammer.
Jumbled below, the senior tools—
brace & bits, chisels, awl,
corundum to perfect an edge.

*   *   *

When she talks to birds,
they fly in close. Each gets
a good look at the other.
Then both go their ways.

What can she make of it?
The chickadee’s obsidian eye?
The tailored headgear?
The silhouette and dipping flight?

She’s not sure what transpires.
It seems a willing meeting,
yet is anything exchanged?
No. No, not no. She thinks, Yes.

*   *   *

How many meds do you take?
Morning, noon, and night?
Just when you expect age
to liberate, tie you to nothing,
here you are filling pillboxes.

*   *   *

Red of voice, burbling,
gossiping, the house finches
this spring color the center
of our drab city.

They choose to perch high,
tree or rooftop, no matter,
their tattling unashamed,
strings of notes, in what order?

I gaze up to spot red.
I want such shenanigans
to drift and land in the street
as gaudy party necklaces.

*   *   *

Erik Muller


Review by Bruce Parker

I hardly know where to begin.  It is difficult to stop shedding tears for a man I barely knew.  But I feel I know Erik better than some people I have known all my life, because I have his poetry.  I have Track Records: Amtrak Poems (2016), Yew (2017), and And Yet: Poems 2011-2018 (2019); and I have his detailed and insightful criticism, A New Text of the World: Ways of Looking at the Poetry of Wallace Stevens (2020) and Durable Goods: Appreciations of Oregon Poets (2017).  I don’t have all his self-published chapbooks, though I wish I did, but I have enough to know what an accomplished poet he was.  I suspect Triggerfish may have the last of his published poems.

These latest poems are characterized by Erik’s concentration on vivid detail, and his sense of both involvement with and detachment from his subjects, as exemplified in classical Chinese poetry.  The poems are marked by a spirit of generosity toward the people and nature found in them, no note of complaint even in the most tragic of them, emblematic of the way Erik was in person, with others.  When I read “black type on a white page/must stand for the voice” I can hear his voice, calm, wry, ready to chuckle, which carried an echo of his New York City boyhood.  This is the voice I would gladly have listened to often, had we lived more nearby.  Though greatly saddened “When I learn the poet/I am reading is dead,” I join him in blurting, “See! Our peonies!” 



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