Al Starkey

I know I’ve read a really fine poem when both my head and heart respond. The first line of Al Starkey’s remarkable poem “What in the World” grabs me because the clouds are killing time. And when he then compares those clouds to yoked oxen, I’m all in. But it’s the last three lines, with their layers of resolve and hope and possibility, that make me cry. They are both moving and thoughtful. And they remind me that poetry is, as Robert Frost put it, “when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found its words.” A matter of both the head and the heart. In balance. As one. 

—Lauren Wolk

What in the World

by Al Starkey

Creeping clouds once killed time on the horizon

Like yoked oxen, poised to plow into earth.

Now they’re here, stealing our bright-eyed skies  

Darkening things, even the murders of crows 

The black water ponds and the pall of despair.

They’ve taken to spitting hail the size of bullets

Hammering and hunching once broad shoulders 

That don’t have an inkling for when it might end.


            And yet


I cannot escape the sense, sewn with desire

That this head-scratching labyrinth of a life

Is but a dream with a strange story-line

A dream from which we will one day wake

Wondering what it all could have meant

As we ditch the creeping clouds of night

And step into the day of an untried world

Unplugged, clear-eyed, infant souls again.

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