Poems by Dan Jacoby

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Dead Ball Era

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Summer 2015

Dan's family has lived in Macoupin County, Illinois, for about 165 years. Western Mound has Bear, Lick, Hodges, and Solomon creeks emptying into Macoupin Creek which flows into the Illinois River and eventually into the Mississippi River just above Alton.

south of the hard road
on a lost ball diamond
phantom ball players
play a game of catch

in their youth they
drove balls high
into surrounding oaks
made catches running
over shards of ancient arrowheads

ground balls gathered and
thrown like wind astray
into an ancient forest
coming to rest
near once sacred graves

played under a fire pool of stars as
chanting coyotes kept score and
only the corn knew and still knows
with ears listening

as a clickedy clack clack
of ghost railcars long abandoned made
long low whistles that
echoed off the hills and bluffs
in lick creek bottom

First published in Vehicle/Summer 2014


by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Winter 2014-15

brace against this morning chill
some driftwood feeds my fire
on dry creek bank
bare from late fall flood
water is still, cold, deep, and dark
now in the fog
above the crackling fire
young man comes with plastic jugs
long lines attached to hooks
he will spend day fishing on the creek bottom
for mudcat and carp
he will soon be in prayer as
his weighted baited jars
float silently patiently

in the still world
i would greet him
surely he would sit
spell out weather wisdom
warm himself to foxfire lore
but I don't for some reason
moves on hands in heavy gloves
I return to myself as
wind plays havoc with the blaze
in minutes crows discover the fisherman
trees of full flapping magpie critics
will look over his shoulder all day
hoping he will drop some liver bait
having second thoughts, douse the fire
walk after him like a Buddhist

Early March

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Winter 2014-15

anyone who has dogs
has made that winter trek
just before bed
to feed and water
fighting razor cutting wind blown snow
broken busted water buckets
ice jack hammered open bottoms
kennel straw piled high
just noses showing
with the first thaws
come redwings, cowbirds
now competing with winter birds at the feeders
and as winds turn gentler
the odor of wet earth
goes anciently waking
capturing a whole primal sense
voice calling way into past
seamlessly bound psyche
whispering waltz under
fiery pit of timeless starlight
could one be
any more alive

last place you look

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Fall 2017

weather is changing
redwing blackbirds gone
two weeks now
hedge is losing its leaves
longer cooler nights
quieted rasping crickets
weeds stop growing
grass cutting slows down
seem to go to bed earlier
with longer cooler nights
thought turning to the past
childhood memories in the timber
along low deep quiet creek bottoms
with dad and the dogs
always seem to find things
in the last place you look

old game trail

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Fall 2017

cool fall wind ripples through hilly bean field
can just see bloody tip of the pointer’s tail
as it buggy whips chasing a frantic spinning rabbit
along the now changing autumn timberline
in a late day’s dust raised obtrusively
by modern evolution of mccormick’s harvester
I imagine sauk, fox, and pawnee hunters
tall, with long flowing black hair, covered in deer skin
padding softly, slowly, deliberately; listening
always glancing furtively back every few steps
like hungry, relentless and wary coyotes
searching for signs and scents
attempting to remain the predator
and not become the prey
great brown bears used to flourish here
in these deep dark bottoms and wind worn bluffs
even now walking amongst these ancient trees
stepping carefully as not to trip
on roots, runners and dead branches covered by the fall
I pause to listen for sounds and whispers
for the faint echoes of stoic stone age hunters, gatherers, and herders
is it hubris to somehow think I can sense their presence
in the lithe spirit and light of a late fall blue moon
some say that dogs pause to stare at things we are unable see
if we empty our minds can we acquire that ability
if only for a few moments
being alone in these woods or in ancient fertile fields
following a century old game trail
I would like to think I could

Spider Bones

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Spring 2015

one morning recently
reaching for the alarm
there behind the disc player
the body of a dead spider
legs curled up
body airy light faded
how many times
had he traversed my pillows
shook my hands
crossed my brow
never once did I take notice
miles he must have logged
hunting protecting me
move in book classics about him
creating a sepulcher of sorts
nights I hear his ghost
whispering a white noise thank you
for having noticed

Previously appeared in The Vehicle.

Wisdom of Solomon

by Dan Jacoby

From Canary Summer 2016

solomon starts below modesto
just kisses palmyra on its west
until it begins to rush
to otter creek below hagaman
deep ditch when dry
spring and fall rains
tax its banks
flood bottoms for miles
lives been lost in those muddy waters
going back a thousand years
native americans built civilizations
on high brush choked bluffs
where raised sacred mounds
fields given up by farmers
returning to earlier times
when fox, sauk, and before them
the creek and river living macoupin
hunted farmed in natural harmony
as young men we logged that creek
with old cork trimmed seines
swam its deep holes
listened to its’ calm song
wondered in awe at its rage
changing paths on a whim
really never taking notice
of any man’s passing

Previously appeared in Indiana Voice Journal.

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