J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part V

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

V. Hands Held

Then on hot days
Of summer, nailing
I nailed bent pieces of broken
Plywood. The shaggy beard
Of Whitman hovering
Nearby. I

Would talk of atoms of
Assumptions of sweet sweat
Billowing on frail
Foreheads. Old hands of a poet,
Gnarled. Brutish. Yes,
Knew and knowing,
Seen and held.

Boot-soles I follow. A
Great pulse of life.

As with Hughes, on
Days of delivered dishes.
Sitting and eating. A
Round table of riches –
Herbs, spices,
My plate holding
Wrinkled bits of paper so
Carefully kept from view.

I have known rivers I

Been everywhere and nowhere. In
Solemn and sad services
In pale November.
Tears against deadened walls.
Silent sepulchers.
Churches caught and coughing as
I speak up and say a
Song of an older man who
Vanished like a word never
Quite spoken, but heard half
Heard behind a wall I still
Can’t find. I who

Tap my feet to
Drums distant and
Voices that lift deep
Thoughts so heavy
Heavy for times both new,
And old…

Frontiers gone through,
Washed away like time
Through a sieve of half
Forgotten years as we all
Sit with silent, hard hands

Posted as part of Poets United Sunday Poets Pantry Series

12 thoughts on “J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part V

  1. Mary January 3, 2016 / 8:07 pm

    So much to reflect on in this piece! Mystery and reality seem to walk hand in hand.


  2. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) January 3, 2016 / 8:11 pm

    I feel a sense of hardness.. Of aging when the poets hands are more like concrete.. Very visual and there are days when I feel like that.


  3. ZQ January 3, 2016 / 9:53 pm

    Marvelous! This is a wonderful treat to find in “the Pantry.”


  4. Truedessa January 3, 2016 / 11:42 pm

    Been everywhere and nowhere…I have felt like that at times in my journey. A reflective poem that speaks of things left undone. There is still time even as the seasons change. They just might take a bit longer.


  5. totomai January 4, 2016 / 12:06 am

    Some of these voices will be unheard, or chose not to be heard. A contemplative piece.

    Happy New Year


  6. thotpurge January 4, 2016 / 12:58 am

    Connecting to poets of yore..one feels that sometimes…as if they are watching over you or your words…nicely done!


  7. OT January 4, 2016 / 2:14 am

    oh this is truly great. Written with excellent pacing and word selection. The flow is so mellifluous and you have so many great images. I could quote half the poem, but I particularly liked:
    Would talk of atoms of
    Assumptions of sweet sweat
    Billowing on frail


    “I who
    Tap my feet to
    Drums distant and
    Voices that lift deep”

    oh yes. I see that this is an ongoing effort so I shall be back to check out the previous parts. great stuff!


  8. Kerry O'Connor January 4, 2016 / 12:56 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this read – your attention to detail and your unique voice elevates words to an art form.


  9. Sherry Blue Sky January 4, 2016 / 8:22 pm

    I especially like the description of the poet’s hands….and the feeling of him looking back at places visited. These poetic journeys are very enjoyable to read, Matthew.


  10. Jae Rose January 5, 2016 / 1:30 pm

    I love the tap of the hammer…steady..constant..reminiscing..the pauses are perfectly placed and holding hands with those poets felt honest and real


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