The Water We Came From
Steven Huff's poetry and short fiction have appeared widely in journals, including Chelsea, Many Mountains Moving, Tar River Poetry, Kestral, The Bellingham Review, and The Hudson Review. A story was included in Pushcart XX: Best of the Small Presses. He is host of "Fiction in Shorts", a twice-weekly radio feature on Rochester, New York's NPR station, WXXI-FM. A former reporter, he now serves as Publisher / Managing Editor of BOA Editions, Ltd., Rochester, New York.
"Steven Huff's clear, precise poems overflow with the things of this world and with a deep sense of contemplative dailiness steeped in the broth of Zen. They are free of beguiling ambition, refreshing in their candor, a genuine pleasure to return to."
From the book:
I caddied some days, & others I hunted lost
balls in surrounding woods, & sold them
back to golfers. Good clean ones were surprises, like
finding an egg in the henhouse after you thought they'd
stopped laying. I had one lucky tree in the woods that
lured balls to its shadow, giving me new Titleists
like truffles, again & again, until I'd exhausted its generosity.
Or I'd see one down a woodchuck hole, just out of
reach, a colorless eye looking at me, worth fifty cents,
maybe a buck, but not about to give itself. Some
days when I caddied I'd get a frustrated golfer who'd
slice one into the trees, cussing me for casting a
shadow & blowing his concentration. I'd plan to
find it later by marking in mind some knot or
eerie bend of a limb where it had sailed in disobedience.
One man even went nuts, slamming one ball after
another into the brush, deliberately; & we walked
back to the clubhouse, his muttering voices slugging it out.
On the back deck at sunset I approached men,
ripe with martinis, glad to buy their own
balls back (some even had their names on them);
winking me compliments on my enterprise, as though
I'd screwed them & they liked it. They gave me
nicknames: Chipper, Ball-Boy, Ball-Fetcher, Balls.
Washington Night, November, 1969
-after the march for peace
I noticed the couple standing in the doorway
of the dark hall where scores of us had rolled
our sleeping bags. An hour before we'd passed around
eyedrops & losenge remedies for the tear gas sprayed
on us like water on running flames. They had no
blankets, those two, nothing; I told them I'd spread
my bag open & share it. Relieved (though they
seemed to know someone would offer), they lay
down-uneasily & tenderly-I could tell they'd
never slept together before. We pulled our
coats over ourselves for blankets. I'd lost
my friends in a melee of sirens & gas & people
trampled under panicked legs. I'd found this building
by accident, with its four vacant floors already
huddled with strangers & with toilets overflowing.
Somewhere in this city I had a lover I hadn't seen in
months since she'd left for school, but knew
she'd also come here to lock arms against the war.
No hope of finding her in this mess, but
I'd scanned the room, & the faces of a million
or so all day. Yet, why pine for her in the midst
of this crazy business of shutting Washington down,
spitting at the tripod machine guns on the capitol steps
aimed at us, linked by a cable & a single nerve?
Now here was this girl from somewhere, red-haired
throat naked, asleep between two boy-men, snoring
like a truck so I couldn't sleep, & the chill of concrete
creeping in my bones, how I wanted to put my
arms around her, touch my face to her face,
to her life, whatever it was, whatever its realities.
Am I nostalgic to wonder where they are now?
If they stayed together, had children, if their
children behaved, if they're still pacifists, or if they
worry that their radical past will suddenly fall out
in front of them & one of them will lose an election.
When her boyfriend sat up, his stirring opened
her eyes. "You were snoring," he said. They
giggled & went back to sleep. They were
like that, those two-they trusted the night.
If some diggers should find
us in a million years, you
& I will look so alike by then.
No doubt their attempt to
assemble our bones will get me
a leg of yours & you'll get
parts of me. But, no matter.
As they sift the sand from
around us they'll find some
outlandish things. I can see
them nodding, saying, Religious
significance; never guessing,
I hope, what junk we owned.
Perhaps by then they'll have
a gadget to read the tiny
particles of our deceased
personalities. Imagine them
holding a sensitive wand
beneath our stoney chins like
a buttercup, & then running it
slowly along the scraps of our
spines. They'll wire tags to
our toes, describing our kind:
Clinging sentimentalist lovers.
They'll give you a name. I'll
get one too. Then the diggers
will stop to eat lunch by
the lake. The sandy earth will lie
open around us, alone, & the
sky will be wide, wide & blue.
The Water We Came From is a 76 page paperback, hand-sewn, with flat spine.
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