by Maurice Manning

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Untitled and unpunctuated, the seventy poems in this acclaimed 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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156034753
Publisher: HMH Books
Publication date: 11/01/2008
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 118
Sales rank: 1,169,375
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.40(d)

About 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.

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 dog
that 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

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/ contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents

Contents boss of the grassy green 1
did you ever have a nickname Boss 3
the night is trotting toward me Boss 4
what color is your collar Boss 5
you’re the hay maker Boss 7
do you get happy Boss do you 8
do you have a table 9
O Boss sometimes you take it all 10
are you ever sorry Boss ever 11
you spread the nighttime Boss 12
I told that old dog he 13
why Boss why do the days drift by 14
are you ever in my chest Boss 15
if you had a feed sack Boss what 16
how big is your hand Boss hold it up 17
the light inside the shadow how 18
I like the weaving bees I like 19
there was a fox Boss in my dream 20
you swirl the dirt like nobody’s business 21
I’ve got butterflies Boss 22
you make it all seem easy Boss 23
yes I’ve tried to hide my face 24
did you pull yourself up by your bootstraps Boss 26
I’m sure you’ve got a sweet spot 27
I guess you’ve got a lot 28
you toss the stars like clover seed 29
that bare branch that branch made black 30
the two of us we’re cut 31
boss of the blue sky boss 32
you move in every direction 33
did you teach the woodpecker how 34
the birds the bugs even the trees Boss 35
when you push the clouds so close together Boss 36
the river looks so level Boss 37
is that you Boss is that 38
of course I like the sun 40
do you have a busy season Boss 41
I’m happy Boss happy as a bird 43
did you boss the horse against the barn 44
is there another sky besides 46
the field is flatter than 48
unless my nose is itchy Boss 49
if I say I’ve sprung the spring in my step 50
I wonder Boss in all 51
before my eye was burning like 52
the way that buzzard hops it makes 53
I put my face against 54
when I chop wood you warm me twice 55
O boss of ashes boss of dust 56
I’ve got a picture of you Boss 57
I got up early Boss the moon 58
your other favorite word 59
I’m like an oak tree Boss O 61
you windy blowhard Boss 62
do you put your trousers on one leg 64
are you against me Boss 65
say what have you got underneath 66
guess what Boss I’m not even 67
when I see the shadow of the hawk 68
can I say whew to you now Boss 69
you let out light to tease the shadows 70
listen Boss don’t think that I 72
my hay day Boss is every day 73
if I didn’t know you better Boss 74
the first hawk you hung up in the sky 76
you know that little song 77
it doesn’t bother me Boss to have 78
is your barn stuffed to the roof beam 79
beyond the field this time 80
would you trade hee-haws with a crow 82
does an old dog toll beside you Boss 84
you leave a little night inside 86
would you be lonesome if I swam 87
we’ve always been like this 89
you raise the hawk you hoist the crows 90
thank you for the leaf Boss 92
am I your helper Boss or am 93
I’ve got one thing to say to you 94

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