John Brantingham

John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2022. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He is the founder and general editor of The Journal of Radical Wonder. He lives in Jamestown, NY.

The Grass Is Spackled with Light

In the predawn, light comes
from the seams of the barn
way back off the road,

and I brake thinking about
how friendly it looks,
how I feel that I could just walk in

and say hello, how I used to do that
when I lived next
to a liquor store in LA,

and I’d get a coke
for the road before the day got started
for anyone but me

and the kid
who worked there
and was always happy to see me.


I woke out of the nap,
confused about where I was,
confused about the snow

that lay bright out the window,
confused about the noise
the wind was making outside,

confused about the news report
coming in from
the next room about Ukraine,

confused by an argument
I’d just been having
with my childhood priest in my dream,

confused about everything
except for the deep scent
of carrots and onions roasting

in the next room.
“The foods we grow
beneath the earth are sacred,”

I would have thought
if coherence were possible,
but there was a deep need in me

that felt it and felt that connection
to the ground. I heard the dog yawn
in the other room,

and you move in some necessary task,
and I sat up to see if I could get
my bearings on the world.


Chautauqua Lake is frozen
all the way across,
and driving along the highway,

I glance left every once
in a while to see people
ice fishing in little canvas shelters.

The barriers of their worlds, above, around, and below are tenuous.

The fish swirl below them. Their protective ice roofs are full of holes.

The road I’m on
froze over last night.
My tires keep losing their grip.