Family Portrait with Scythe: Poems

Family Portrait with Scythe: Poems

by James Owens
Family Portrait with Scythe: Poems

Family Portrait with Scythe: Poems

by James Owens


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James Owens' stunning valediction, both for and forbidding mourning, slices with steely memory to the "wet bone." Stumbling with a boy's "ignorant gravity," Owens cannot right the "unbalanced accounts" of his miner father's sooty lungs, his parents' exhausted marriage—nor his own professed failings. Yet his keen eye in and of the natural world does lead to the scales balanced, if precariously—in belonging "on the brief earth," in parsing spring from grief, in "the good story of the body" whose light becomes "the shine of spirit." A master poet works this crescent blade, a master who embraces life's whole catastrophe as equally as he farewells it past.

—Linda Parsons, author of This Shaky Earth

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781947504202
Publisher: Bottom Dog Press
Publication date: 04/01/2020
Pages: 114
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

James Owens grew up in the coal-mining country of Appalachian Virginia, attended King College, and worked as a reporter and editor on newspapers in the region, before studying poetry at the University of Alabama and receiving an MFA in 2002. He now lives with his wife in a small town in Ontario, along the north shore of Lake Huron, where the winters are long enough to make the summers precious. He has three children and two step-children, all grown, and spends as much time as he can in the woods and near the water. Of his writing, he comments, "I try to negotiate a balance between the ecstatic possibilities of language and nature and the hard-edged boundaries of the moment." He has published widely, including three previous books of poems: An Hour is the Doorway (2007), Frost Lights a Thin Flame (2007), and Mortalia (2015).

Read an Excerpt


The chubby boy who dreams of dogs: a pack

of slat-ribbed, fever-eyed strays, snapping mouths

raw with mange. Hemmed in, no running back

or forward on the mud path behind the house,

a cramped passage between the weedy hill

too steep for escape and a hopeless blank wall

of tar-paper siding. As they slouch in for the kill,

he swings a broken stick, is too soft, is small.

Often, paralyzed, the dogs. Then the night a horse

steps into his room, nothing funny, uncombed mane,

hooves strange on the floor, moving like a horse

toward the bed. He tastes an open vein

of fear spilled in his throat. He thinks he is awake

and dreads revelation, knowing the horse will speak.


Family Portrait with a Scyth
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