Archive, First Series, Poems

Michael S. Harper Proposition 15

Christmas Eve and no presents;
the snow’s in the mountains;
the fat saint hasn’t gotten
his witless teamwork from ski
trails and mushroomed mountaintops;
the lake water is truly sky-blue—
Everybody’s waiting for dark.
The minstrels take the lawns
to attract skyflies,
coming at midnight, inflight,
red-suited saint, with his whip
and his sack of full of toys:
it can’t be Halloween.

My backyard is covered with snow;
eight rabbits in reins settle their
cottontail feet in the molasses earth
and begin their whimsical dancing,
a figure-eight cycle
of rhythm and blues.

I see rose-thorned tambourines: see
that green honey-dewed fruit,
see the white sheets and pillow cases;
see that grayhaired black storyteller
on the porch swing;
even you are a believer.

Michael S. Harper‘s poem “Proposition 15” first appeared in the Autumn 1968 issue of Poetry Northwest, and later in his National Book Award-nominated collection Dear John, Dear Coltrane. Harper’s awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, and in 2008 he was presented with the Frost Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Society of America. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1938, Harper died in 2016.