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Friday, April 26, 2013


by Dale Ritterbusch

Image source: U.S. Air Force

Two dogs bark back and forth, a common
interruption in summer, but this a cold
night in March, still a foot, maybe more, of snow
on the ground.  He listens, stops thinking
for a moment, turns back to his book,
but nothing holds his attention.  Returned from
a long trip to the interior of a place
he had never been before, he
wants to reflect yet at the same time rid himself
of everything he’d seen: a man bit by a venomous snake
who just sat down and waited;
long worms white and thin as spaghetti
swimming like sea snakes in the drinking water;
bodies carved with machetes,
their limbs swelled in the sun like bratwurst;
and children living in the ruins
of a colonial mission, suspicion in their eyes
when any adult walked near.  These were all
things he’d known or heard of before, of course,
no matter where he traveled or when.  Field workers,
maimed and limbless because of mines, neglect, political
philosophy, it didn’t matter.  Better to stay home
and read about the world, to let considered reflection
or a splendid forgetting get in the way,
like that small boy in the road
the convoy didn’t brake for, because no one
stops for anything in that place

Dale Ritterbusch is the author of two collections of poetry, Lessons Learned (1995) and Far From the Temple of Heaven (2005).  He is a Professor of Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he teaches creative writing and literature.  Currently he is the Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of English & Fine Arts at the United States Air Force Academy.