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by Maurice Manning

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Untitled and unpunctuated, the seventy poems in this collection seem to cascade from one page to another. Maurice Manning extolls the virtues of nature and its many gifts, and finds deep gratitude for the mysterious hand that created it all. that bare branch that branch made black by the rain the silver raindrop hanging from the black branch Boss I like that black


Untitled and unpunctuated, the seventy poems in this collection seem to cascade from one page to another. Maurice Manning extolls the virtues of nature and its many gifts, and finds deep gratitude for the mysterious hand that created it all. that bare branch that branch made black by the rain the silver raindrop hanging from the black branch Boss I like that black branch I like that shiny raindrop Boss tell me if I’m wrong but it makes me think you’re looking right at me now isn’t that a lark for me to think you look that way upside down like a tree frog Boss I’m not surprised at all I wouldn’t doubt it for a minute you’re always up to something I’ll say one thing you’re all right all right you are even when you’re hanging Boss

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In his third collection, Yale Younger Poets prize–winner Manning goes for a new twist on the traditional genre of pastoral poetry: he praises nature, but also engages in a postmodern conversation with a version of a higher power, which he calls "Boss." In 78 rolling, untitled, unpunctuated poems, which mostly keep to an iambic beat, Manning's curious, grateful and mischievous speaker spars with his unanswering deity, alternately singing praise ("...Boss a horse beside/ a tree it makes me happy"), reeling in doubt ("...if I/ could find the little ladder Boss/ that's leaning straight against the sky/ how many rungs would I have to climb"), teasing ("...you just/ can't get above your raising Boss") and railing against the silence that answer his outcries ("...Boss you hold/ me down you hold me back/ you push against me O/ I hope you're happy now"). The poems do get repetitive—Manning establishes his strategies at the outset and then uses them again and again—but the insistent rhythm is born of real enthusiasm. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher


"The lucidity and surprise and soulfulness of [the poems’] language embody an intelligence and sensibility attainable only in high art . . . This is thrilling work." — JAMES BAKER HALL, POET LAUREATE OF KENTUCKY


"A fresh and brilliant talent."— W. S. MERWIN

Deseret Morning News

Manning celebrates the virtues of nature and finds deep gratitude for the mysterious hand that created it all.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

boss of the grassy green boss of the silver puddle how happy is my lot to tend the green to catch the water when it rains to do the doing Boss the way the sun wakes up the leaves they yawn a bit each day a little more for a tiny reason then when the leaves outgrow their green the wind unwinds them Boss that’s the way you go around if you loose me like a leaf if you unburden me if I untaste the taste of being bossed by you don’t boss me down to dust may I become a flower when my blossom Boss is full boss a bee to my blue lips that one drop of my bloom would softly drop into your sweetness once again if I go round that way
I’ll know the doing means to you what it means to me a word before all words

did you ever have a nickname Boss a favorite color ever walk around in a circle for the fun of it do you snap your fingers hold your breath do you put things in your pocket do you notch a stick for every sparrow is everything a little game to you Boss a little peekaboo a ring around the rosy Boss we all fall down that’s the funny part when it happens do you keep a straight face or do you laugh what’s it like to always know the answer never have to guess when you rest do you ever fall asleep

the night is trotting toward me Boss as if you tapped it with a switch or clicked your tongue against your teeth it’s coming down the pasture soon
I’ll hear the leather tackle squeak
I’ll see your ankle swinging in the stirrup Boss you ride the night but you don’t need to hurry no you’ve been this way a time or two before you’ve hauled your wagon full of stars it’s all old hat for you you get here when you get here O
I guess you like the same old thing it’s funny but I like it too
I like it when you ride the night across the sky as if it were a nag a worn-out horse you don’t mind riding O you get along your horse is made of silver Boss it clips like sleep it clops like you

what color is your collar Boss is your backbone sore from bending over when you clap your hand against your thigh does a little cloud of dust fly off do you wipe your face with your shirttail Boss
I’d bet my wages that you do though I couldn’t say for sure how much my wages are they’re probably enough O I get by all right a beech seed here a feather there a locust wing a wing as light as air besides it lets light through
I get a double portion from you
I tie my purse strings tight but put this in your pocket all I have
I’d lay it on the table Boss for you I’d bet you jerk your lines you hang your salty harness from a red nail in your barn you pour your horse a scoop of oats you give its tail a tug you say nighty night you spotted nag it’s funny Boss
I can hear you chuckle when you shut the stall you’re happy for a good day’s work a spotted horse
I wonder if that horse’s spots are real or painted on it makes me smile to think about it Boss even field hands need a laugh or two a rusty riddle a twisty tongue
I wouldn’t put it past you O
you sneaky devil you cutup Boss

you’re the hay maker Boss you light the candle in the sun dip the water in the rain
O for the whole big picture you’re the painter Boss I know it’s you the biggest boss of all you must have a sack full of wind somewhere a barrel full of salt a recipe for stone things like that you keep them close to your chest you keep your secrets Boss you flash a yellow eye then crow away you’re like a rooster Boss sometimes you’re like a fox

do you get happy Boss do you get tickled by a funny bird or doubled over by a tree a lonesome tree less lonely Boss because it has a horse beside it it doesn’t matter if the horse is rubbing anything or not as long as it’s beside the tree so simple Boss a horse beside a tree it makes me happy just to think about two things beside each other the stick beside the fire the rock beside the water O
the snow beside the sleepy field
O Boss the moss beside my mouth when I bend down to say it’s me you mossy bank you happy piece of green it’s me beside you like a bird I thought I’d let you know in case you don’t have eyes I thought
I’d tell you Boss what always leaves me happy if you didn’t know already Boss in case you spend a lot of time beside yourself

do you have a table
Boss do you have a lantern do you leave a broom straw on the mantel when you blow into your hearth does it glow Boss do you touch the broom straw to the coal do you touch the lantern next is that how you make light like that with little more than just a breath Boss what happens next once your lamp is lit what happens after that

O Boss sometimes you take it all you shuck the corn you slice the pie in the sky O you’re the onliest the only word that’s ever on my lips I let it slip when I see the sky lit up like sunshine scattered on the river though it’s nighttime Boss
O all those sparkles all that glimmer my eyeballs never want to blink away from you when I know for sure you’re up there making shimmer Boss you’re laying by a little light for later on I wonder if you have a wheel to shell the stars the way you turn the sky I think your hand is wrapped around a crank

are you ever sorry Boss ever have a problem ever get shamefaced stuff your hands in your big boss pockets it’s never easy is it Boss never
Boss ever get a slow start ever feel like you’re at the end of the line the end of your rope have you ever had it up to here wherever that is on you I know it’s high up to your neck Boss the top of your head you must be tall to take it all the way you do taller than the top of the moon Boss O I wonder what you see when you look up

you spread the nighttime Boss all over me you tuck me in you tuck me tighter than a splinter in my finger
Boss you breathe a song into the wind when you get this close I wish you’d put your ear against my mouth so I could tell you something
I could tell you something
Boss if you would just bend farther down I know you know what I would say
Boss if you’d put your ear against my mouth though it would only be a whisper
I’ve got a secret Boss it’s burning up my lips

I told that old dog he could hush Boss I said there now you’re just having a shaky little dream dream a dream dream Boss how about that talking to a dogthat way there there it’s justa little dream dream you don’t have to whimper that’s what I can’t stand Boss to see an old dog whimper what’s in an old dog’s dream dream anyway some rabbits Boss or barking up a tree say do you ever have a dream dream
Boss are you running after or away from me tell me sometime if your big feet ever twitch

why Boss why do the days drift by like a leaf asleep on a bed of water does the leaf forgive the tree that let it fall into the water does it know how stiff the river’s face can be how smileless rivers like to be at least this one Boss not a flinch or bristle bloomed on its glassy face the moment the leaf lay down no joy no breathy gasp from the river’s lips when all the leaf was trying to do is cuddle Boss does cuddling move the likes of you are you the river or the thing that makes the river’s face so still if a thing so little as a leaf decided to cuddle up to me I couldn’t stand it Boss
I couldn’t stare it down like you
I’d have to say you hush now leaf you hush your little mouth good night
Copyright © 2007 by Maurice Manning

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Meet the Author

MAURICE MANNING’s poems have appeared in the Southern Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and the New Yorker, and his first collection of poems was awarded the Yale Younger Poets Award. He teaches English at Indiana University. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and Danville, Kentucky.

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