The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Gary J. Whitehead



Our love in a topple
like slabs of quarried marble,

though I saw a polished house.

Grass grew around it, poison
sumac and ivy, trees of heaven,

though I saw Italian gardens.

A cacophony of birds—finches
and flickers, thrushes and jays,

one red-bellied woodpecker

who hammered our rotting soffit,
but I heard an avian choir,

days with repeating phrases,

whole summers of arias.
Rings around my eyes from

the opera glasses. Robin alarms,

but you were there beside me.
Towers tumbled then.

Whole cities exploded.

The ark sank with its animals
two-by-two. Why couldn’t I see

the people leaping, the boy

washed up on that foreign shore?
What tyrant was I to hold

the plan for world dominion

in one hand and some seeds
in the other for the exhausted dove?



Gary J. Whitehead

The Lost Boy


The boy went missing in a dense wood.
Last seen heading back to change.
The forest closed around him,
in day a green cocoon, in night a black.
I clenched my teeth to hear of him
and tasted wild carrot, dirt on my tongue,
the sweet mauve of clover flower.
Imagined Dr. Night, mosquito needles,
minks with teeth like lancets.
I loved the peace of a peaceful wood
but feared the getting old, which now meant
assembling search parties for those one loved
and sending boys back to change their pants
in case of poison ivy or poison oak
and never seeing them again.
I’d never feared the dark or owl sounds,
but the dark behind my eyes….
So, as my father told it, lost and found
seemed to mean the same thing,
and I heard the story of the boy
like the drone of a twin-engine plane.




GARY J. WHITEHEAD's poems recently appear or are forthcoming in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Epoch, and The Massachusetts Review. His third book of poetry, A Glossary of Chickens, was chosen by Paul Muldoon for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and published in 2013 by Princeton University Press. His work has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program The Writer’s Almanac and on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Guardian’s Poem of the Week. Whitehead has been the recipient of the Anne Halley Poetry Prize (The Massachusetts Review), a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and the Princeton University Distinguished Secondary School Teaching Award. A featured poet at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Princeton Poetry Festival, he teaches English at Tenafly High School in New Jersey and lives in the Hudson valley of New York.



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