Literature 9-4-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Robert Buchko

"What Light: This Week's Poem" is a feature sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers that brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers. This week, we present the work of Robert Buchko.

robert Buchko

In the Desert, Water is a Myth Not to Be Believed

     —New Mexican High Desert, 1999
     Inspired by the paintings of Rafael Salas


Brushfires caught and roamed throughout winter.
Juniper branches, once moon-thrown silhouettes

          fanned across canyon walls,

transfigured to ash before the spring equinox.

Dawn near the levee, spin-drifts of smoke,
gauzed horizon— washing in what remains of a river

I reach through my reflection’s thin currents.

          How silently that which we enter, enters us.

The life we thought we’d lived darkens, now flagged
with phantom-bloom,

          age begins its somber haunt;

even the swallowtail’s cocoon oscillates,


Beyond the eastern embankment a flatbed truck
jostles past, radio blaring yet another vapid anthem—

          Navajo teenagers returning from school,

their black hair wind-loosed— frayed ribbons
disappearing beneath

          a scorched-blue expanse.


Another day hammered from the quarry,
slowly, the valley burgeons

          branding fallen constellations across land.

In the distance, cattle moan in the last scrims
of rising heat, heads bowed, suffused in deep horizon.

A man on horseback surfs the herd into night.


I have always felt an intense admiration for those artists who are able to communicate the ides of their art. This is not confined to writers alone. In fact, I feel that Kandinsky, Yo-Yo Ma, Nietzsche, Dizzy Gillespie, and Van Gough (to name only a fraction) are some of the most articulate artists in terms of critical analysis of their own aesthetics, and aesthetic discourse in general. In this brief missive I would like to share an “Informal Statement of Poetics” that, in part, guides my writing and offers some insight into my own aesthetic principles.

“The secret of poetry is silence, the unheard echoes of utterances that wash through us with their solitary innuendos.”

“Style is the ability to see through things— great style is vision.”

“Timing is essence.”

    – Charles Wright

Writing shit about new snow
for the rich
      is not art

    – Issa

“One can speak verbal ‘music’ so long as one remembers that the sound of words is inseparable from their meaning. The notes of music do not denote anything.”

    – W. H. Auden


Robert Buchko earned his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana in 2001. He has won two Academy of American Poets Awards, and recently was a finalist in New York University’s Washington Square Review Poetry Contest, 2005-06. His poems have appeared in various journals, most recently in the Beloit Poetry Journal, Summer 2006. He has just completed his first manuscript of poems, entitled “Gathering the Wild.” He lives and works in Minneapolis.