Poetry by Jeff Hardin

Contemporary Poetry

Hours before a storm arrives, 

I pilfer book spines to see what 

catches my eye. I’m beginning

to think what we call wisdom

is little more than stumbling onto

one thing as opposed to something else.

When my father, a towboat pilot, died,

he took with him fifty years of knowing 

the river’s changing channel. Three,

maybe four men, knew the whole 

of the river as intimately as he did. 

Years have drifted on: hours, days,

and one cold February morning when I 

thought to ask some ordinary detail 

about his childhood, now lost forever.

What can death teach us, though,

that we don’t already know? Wind 

turns the rain on a slant, sweeps 

both benches from the patio, then

intensifies so that the woods line 

a hundred yards away can’t be seen. 

It’s strange to think that of all 

his mind came to consider 

through most of a weary century, 

almost none of it was spoken aloud 

and even less of it given to a page.

He taught me the current might be 

wide, but—far below—the channel 

follows its own course, and not always 

where you think it should be.

Jeff Hardin is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Watermark (Madville Publishing, 2022), A Clearing Space in the Middle of Being (Madville Publishing, 2019), and No Other Kind of World (Texas Review Press, 2017). His work has received the Nicholas Roerich Prize, the Donald Justice Prize, and the X. J. Kennedy Prize. Recent and forthcoming poems appear in The Bennington Review, Laurel Review, Image, Poetry South, Potomac Review, The Southern Review, and many others. He lives and teaches in Tennessee.