Soon After Rain

Soon After Rain

by James Hoggard


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Soon After Rain by James Hoggard

James Hoggard’s new collection of poems is an elegant, highly energetic volume that takes its readers through a wealth of settings, times, and forms. As versatile a poet as there is, Hoggard time and again turns his attention to forms like pantoum and ghazals that heighten the readers’ responses to the stories he tells in verse. In fact, one of the signal pieces in the volume shows Hoggard unearthing an old story about Odysseus’ trying through a wealth of trickery to get out of going to the Trojan War. What the tale adds up to, however, is a deeply moving love story that seems genuinely contemporary. Running throughout this collection is a powerful use of environmental collapse as both theme and metaphor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781609404284
Publisher: Wings Press
Publication date: 03/01/2015
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

James Hoggard is a translator, a playwright, a novelist, an essayist, and a poet whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Arts & Letters, Harvard Review, and Words Without Borders. He is the recipient of the Lon Tinkle Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career, a poet laureate of Texas, and the former president of the Texas Institute of Letters. He is the Perkins-Prothro Distinguished Professor of English at Midwestern State University and the author of more than 20 books, including The Devil's Fingers & Other Personal Essays, The Mayor's Daughter, Riding the Wind, Triangles of Light: The Edward Hopper Poems, Trotter Ross, and Wearing the River. He lives in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Soon After Rain

New Poems

By James Hoggard

Wings Press

Copyright © 2015 James Hoggard
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60940-431-4


    Soon After Rain

    Soon after rain has stopped, a silence comes
    when no bird sings and no wind stirs.
    The world seems briefly mute
    and sweet attention's everywhere.

    When no bird sings and no wind stirs
    the world itself seems to have hushed,
    and sweet attention's everywhere:
    no circling ripples stir the pond.

    The world itself seems to have hushed:
    traffics of sound have disappeared,
    no circling ripples stir the pond,
    the turtles staying still on rocks.

    Traffics of sound have disappeared,
    a sense of absence everywhere:
    the turtles staying still on rocks,
    and no fish strike at phantom flies.

    A sense of absence everywhere,
    as if nothing has the need to breathe,
    and no fish strike at phantom flies,
    and nothing has the need to speak.

    As if nothing has the need to breathe,
    the world seems briefly mute,
    and nothing has the need to speak.
    Soon after rain has stopped, a silence comes.

    Late Afternoon Rain

    Late afternoon, the thunder came,
    long after another rain had dropped,
    but when the late, loud thunder roared
    that earlier rain had long since stopped.
    Was another rain ready to fall?

    Touching Different Worlds


    Afternoons more than mornings
    I spent hours watching clouds
    forming creatures and stories
    in the kingdom of the sky.

    Elephant trunks and deer were there,
    rhino horns and wild boar tusks,
    unicorns and dinosaurs,
    and faces of beasts I'd never seen.

    And sometimes winds made the creatures crash
    while wisps of vapors, unattached,
    kept my attention alert:
    I was sailing alone on a distant sea.


    Morning skies, though, seldom mattered.
    Mornings were for persimmon fights
    and the need to haul up pipes
    friends and I had tossed in the creek.
    Catfish and crawdads lodged in them.

    There were worlds under water,
    and worlds under rocks, worlds in tall grass
    and worlds in the thick oak woods.


    Mornings meant earth, but afternoons, sky,
    and evening's games kept me outside.
    There were endless worlds I had to explore,
    and some were worlds I could barely see:

    neighborhood yards full of tarantula holes
    and snakes coiled up in flowerbeds.
    I had a thousand worlds to explore,
    and many of those I could barely see.

    Bull Riding at the Atkeisons' Ranch

    The first time I tried to ride the bull
    he threw me fast — a sudden twist
    and I sailed off his back but missed
    the fence — the next time, though, I knew

    to strain, to lean against his back.
    That worked a rough but sweet wild time —
    through bucks and twists my heels beat time
    against his neck, then suddenly,

    head down, he stopped and I flew off

    over head and horns. The world had lost
    its sense of speed, and though now tossed,
    I hung somehow afloat in air,

    and gliding slowly now, I missed
    the fresh manure I'd been flying toward,
    but when I hit I landed hard
    and somersaulting skidded through

    the loose, ammonia-fragrant dirt.

    Leaving the Lincoln Memorial

    So leaving the Lincoln Memorial
    and coming to the stairs, I said,
    Chuck, take my arm, and he did.

    My sunglasses on and right hand raised
    through the bright late-morning air,
    I said I had truly found greatness here.

    I could feel, I said, Lincoln's rich presence
    when I touched the stone his likeness rested
    but oh! If I only had eyes to see him!

    And as we walked down the long stone stairs,
    I ran my fingers through the braille of the air,
    and stopping, people looked, listened, and wept.

    We were now among new sets of them.
    They, too, were going where we had been,
    and again I said how fine it was to touch

    the stone that Lincoln's likeness rested on,
    then finally, as we neared our car where
    our parents were waiting for us, another family

    passed by us but stopped as we slowed down
    and I went through my patter again,
    and the mother, tweaking the ears of her boys,

    said, Look! The little brother is helping
    his blind big brother — they know how to act!

    Then they, too, were gone, though the father,

    I saw, was biting his upper lip to keep
    from weeping — then Mother asked, What
    are you two doing?
So we told her, but swore

    we had done the good thing: we had made
    the day holy for those who had passed
    beside us, who had heard what grief I felt

    at not being able to see Lincoln in stone,
    though there was joy, a power of joy
    in feeling his presence before us,

    but the moment I said that, I saw
    Dad turn away, in grief, it seemed,
    at what terrible deceit he had spawned.

    Heat Break

    A crowd of thin dark clouds scudded till
    it covered our valley, the place where we'd
    pitched tent, and broke the scorching heat.

    I noticed then the flies had gone — they'd been
    a constant irritant almost a week:
    they'd been as aggravating as the heat.

    Then long and rumbling thunder rolls echoed
    between the mountains — but no rain came,
    then soon I saw three lightning strikes

    zigzagging down the canyon toward the spruce,
    but no rain fell and I kept wondering when
    high virgas would turn into pouring rain

    that soaked the trees, that turned the forest's floor
    into an aromatic, pasty mulch,
    or if high rain would simply disappear

    the way rain often does — lightning flashing
    in streaks and sheets, as if the air itself
    has been electrified — but no rain falls:

    no way to know if rain will come at all.

    This Alien Place Called Home

    There are no antique shards to dig up here.
    Because the winds had blown the gods away
    the Indians dared not set their camps near here,

    and now we have to face the fact that where
    we live has no tradition, nothing's stayed:
    there are no antique shards to dig up here.

    If some in foolishness chose where
    we live, they never cared in any way
    that Indians dared not set their camps near here —

    unless they began to wonder: Were
    they right? Of course, they might have been, but say:
    There are no antique shards to dig up here

    then ask if our own fathers did not hear
    the message of the winds and droughts, that they,
    the Indians, dared not set their camps near here.

    And then admit our fathers were wild-haired
    and driven men who did not stop to say:
    There are no antique shards to dig up here.
    The Indians dared not set their camps near here.

    Summer Floods

    News yesterday said storms had sent new lines
    of rushing waters into subway lines.

    Today's news said whole regions were cut off
    from casual travel there — no railway lines

    were sending trains through there, the places swept
    by flows of waters still so deep that lines

    were being thrown to those who'd lost their homes,
    so many now attached to hover lines,

    and up into a sky of clouds they rose
    toward helicopter blades and rough new lines

    of wind that pushed against their frantic grips,
    that tossed them back and forth so hard the lines

    they held translated fears that lines would break
    and they'd fall down into the restive lines

    of churning waters that now rushed below
    where they once were, below the whipping lines

    of brutal wind, in little wave-tossed boats,
    or even not in boats — they'd grabbed those lines

    dropped from the whirrings in the troubled sky,
    those lines they found cut hands — abrasive lines —

    and though those lines saved lives, the airborne ones
    soon found they needed more than one good line.

    Watching the Sky

    A waste of vapors in the air,
    the morning's overcast blocked out
    the sun and left a shadow on
    the world, the darkness deepening,

    and rain appeared: a mistlike drift
    that soon turned thick when thunder struck —
    a hard north wind now driving walls
    of rain aslant, and thunder shook
    the world again as wind kicked up.

    The only question was if wind
    and heat and counter-cold were strong
    enough to make tornadoes form.

    Hotter'n Hell Hundred

    A heat inversion made the air seem close,
    a quality of atmosphere that made
    it hard to breathe, that made it hard to move
    unless one moved somehow with speed against
    the wind, for moving with the wind, one's back
    to wind, made air so thick that breaths came hard,
    as if in spite of speed the wind had died,
    and I, in open sun, was biking in
    to wind, then with the wind, and every breath
    came like a gift, a hot lung-searing gift
    that lifted me above the heat that pressed
    me down, that leeched my legs of strength, that brought
    a world of heavy weight upon my arms,
    that blistered feet, the pedals stabbing at
    my feet, my soles on fire — wind whipping me.
    I'd biked already eighty miles but had
    a score to go to cross the finish line.

    Running at Night

    I can't see the rocks
    or the raccoons or skunks,
    threats I might kick
    when I run at night.

    And now that the drought
    has broken, are snakes —
    rattlesnakes I mean —
    still in the neighborhood?

    The Wrong Way to Wheeler Peak

    We left our mountain place before the air
    turned hot, before the thinness of the air
    scorched skin and scalded eyes, before
    the sweet illusion of the place had torn
    itself away and we came home to heat,
    one-hundred-ten degrees of blistering heat
    that weighted down our goatlike springy legs
    that once had shuffled over rocky paths,
    but we'd pressed on — we had a way to go
    to reach the mountain top, a way to go
    before we reached the place whose summit soared
    above the levels of the other heights,
    but we, we realized, had missed our route:
    the path we took the wrong damn path, the place
    we reached a rocky outcrop that almost
    undid us when new rain made gravel slick,
    and thunder said that lightning might strike close,
    so down we climbed, and down we slid, so close
    to falling that we cursed and twisted left
    then right then left again as if our boots
    were skis, as if our walking sticks could stop
    the threat that we might plummet down and stop,
    impaled on sticks or bruised and pierced by rock.

    The Way the Weather Works

    For two days cloudy skies and thunder rolls
    have promised rain but no rains come.
    Today the sky again was overcast
    and wind this morning blew in from
    the north, blew stiffly from the north,
    but no rain came till mid-afternoon.
    The western sky had just begun to clear
    when lightly rain began to fall,
    so lightly that its drift was hard to see,
    if drift there was, and what rain came
    was less than shower but more than mist.

    Fall's first Grippe

    Barreling wetly from the north,
    a cold damp wind, hitting early today,
    drove summer's last remnant away,
    the ghost of August's scorch.

    The sting of the wind biting bone
    ground raggedly into my chest,
    then below the realm of breath
    it pressed my joints to stone.

    Chilled, joints aching, I was shaking
    then suddenly a flash of heat
    swept like a wildfire through me,
    its molten waves slapping me.

    The wash of heat then drowning me,
    all I could do was hope
    that, falling asleep, I'd drop
    below my shivering agony —

    this turn of the world would maul me
    and I'd blindly collapse unless I found
    some way to seize a notion of heat
    to warm myself illusorily, to beat
    this cold that drills through skin and bone.

    Dark Drifting Clouds

    The air both heavy and still, a drift
    of clouds came darkly in today.
    The look of things threatening, though no clouds formed.
    I stayed on point. I've watched tornadoes form.
    I've seen quick lightning strikes. I've seen thick walls
    of rain come down and fly sideways, the drive
    of wind so hard I wondered what would break:
    big limbs, electric lines, home walls, or what?
    A wildness in the air can undo all.

    Nineveh on Five Again

    Nineveh, called Mosul now, is on fire again,
    and day and night its skies are aflame again.

    The worldly people I knew there were kind,
    abut shocks from bombs have jolted them again.

    Mosques and churches have exploded then sunk
    aback into clay, back into sand again.

    The place has been attacked and torched before,
    but scourges keep assaulting it, again and again.

    The clouds the explosions make seem abstract when
    we mute, as we do, the bombs' noises again.

    Buds, lore said long ago, burst into bloom
    in the sky when rockets explode again and again.

    But few plants bloom in this sky, and few survive
    the war today — ashes blow about again.

    Exiled from what once seemed so much like home,
    I'm back again — I'm in my home again.

    But part of me is still where Jonah went:
    that great city where he heard God again.

    The people there, and the king, repented then,
    though Jonah turned sullen and angry again.

    When I was there, the wind was high and hot —
    of course, I thought that I was home again.

    There was no need in me for sullenness:
    Jonah and I had parted ways again.

    The Changing Clouds

    All day the clouds appeared then disappeared,
    with restless sky becoming blue again,
    then turning dark again, as if sky had
    been bruised — but bruised, I have to ask, by what?
    A darkness staining air now gave it weight,
    a weight that brought a strain to back and neck
    that night. All night, it seemed, the thunder rolled,
    the forks of lightning striking roofs and trees.

    But in the morning nothing seemed the least
    bit scorched. Had lightning been then nothing more
    than dream, a passing fantasy that kept
    alive somehow an air of mystery,
    a deep impression of a battered world?
    Or was that battered world a fictive thing?

    A Clown Show in the Sky

    That hawk awhile ago was floating high
    upon a current waving through the air
    then suddenly its flight turned restless when
    a scissortail took perch upon its neck
    and started pecking at its shifting skull
    to gather in a good fresh meal of lice.

    The hawk's now flying desperately to rid
    itself of this head-pecking passenger —
    but clownlike, birds know how to play the wind,
    no matter if the wind or hawk begins
    to twist or dive or tilt or roll to shake
    the nuisance off — those efforts all will fail.

    I've seen these scissortails ride winds in ways
    that look as if they're climbing walls,
    as if they've rearranged the wind so they
    can hang in air — they're conjurers that like
    to ride bare-backed the backs of birds like this:
    the talon-beaked, cold-eyed and fang-clawed hawk.

    God made these big-winged birds, the smaller bird
    suggests, to be fine toys for those of us
    who love to ride the air on backs and necks
    and heads of dangerous things like raptor birds
    whose reputation for ferocity
    is such a sweetly entertaining thing.

    A Dimness in the Air

    I like the way vast clouds obscure
    the sky and stir cool breezes free.
    I like the way a dimness in
    the air can calmly settle me
    and while that happens stir me free
    from knotlike twists of blinding thought —
    the world so often shadow-rich
    that blindness might see more than sight.

    I like the heights of temple roofs
    that lift my gaze toward blinding glares
    that make me wince and turn away,
    the light too bright for open eyes,
    but steeples are instructive things —
    they help to make past present now —
    the urge to see so much like sight
    itself I see to see what sees.

    I also like the fact of crypts
    that lie below the praying place
    because they turn my thoughts toward home,
    toward sky, back to the living past
    where hymns I've sung now sound in me,
    and finding voice again they sound
    the depths in me that I don't see
    until closed eyes bring shadows near.


Excerpted from Soon After Rain by James Hoggard. Copyright © 2015 James Hoggard. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Soon After Rain 2

Late Afternoon Rain 3

Touching Different Worlds 4

Bull Riding at the Atkeisons' Ranch 6

Leaving the Lincoln Memorial 7

Heat Break 9

This Alien Place Called Home 10

Summer Floods 11

Watching the Sky 13

Hotter'n Hell Hundred 14

Running at Night 15

The Wrong Way to Wheeler Peak 16

The Way the Weather Works 17

Fall's First Grippe 18


Dark Drifting Clouds 20

Nineveh, on Fire Again 21

The Changing Clouds 23

A Clown Show in the Sky 24

A Dimness in the Air 25

Low Clouds, Dark 26

The Rhythms of Rain 27

Walking Where Nineveh Was 28

Beyond the Town 30

Chills 31

A Contradictory Brightness 32

The Spears of Zeus 33


Sky Over Knossos 36

Odysseus Sowing Salt 38

Seasickness 42

Revenge 44

The Draw of the Other 46

A Curious Man 47

Our Friends Son 49

Cervantes 50

IV The Artemisia Sutte

A Finely Cold Will 52

Self-portrait as the Allegory of Painting 53

Susanna and the Elders 54

Corsica and the Satyr 56

The Sensual Miracle 58


Bats in Havana 60

Moonwash 61

Seasonal Changes 62

Winter 63

When Four Tornadoes Joined 64

A Difficult June 65

Mountain Butterfly 66

Peripeteia 67

Summer's First Rain 68

A Long, Hard Wind 69

A Massive Stillness 71

In the Lobby 72

Dilemma 73

Summer Ordeal 74

Last Night's Derecho 75

Father-Son Talk 76

First Freeze 77

A Terror Fills the Air 78

The Old Model 79

Memories of Mosul 80

Acknowledgments 82

About the Author 83

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