Poem With First Line From W.S. Merwin

Rustin Larson


Moored to the same ring,
I had a dream. I was at
the swing set where I played
as a child. On a platform
there were eight fuzzy
owls and three people,
small ones, built from flowers
and twigs. I shook the wings
of the owls and said hello,
and I shook the twig-hands
of the people. Everyone was
friendly, and we had
a good time playing on the platform
under the dark shade of the
maple in Des Moines, 1966, the
last year that city ever existed.

I never liked laboratories; my lab
partners were always horrendous.
I counted on the end of the world
to clear my accounts; I had no
fear of it, in fact welcomed
it as an end to my problems and
sweet revenge upon my enemies
all at once. Well, the world
took its sweet time ending,
as you can see. Now I’ve
got all these people I
care about. Still, if this day
can end with a really good meal,
something that isn’t so
chalky, I will feel that is
fulfillment, and there will
be no need for revenge.  
I give you my world as a fellow

Hello, Mr. Grudpax. Your yellow
balloon cannot be operated in
the library, but if you will
park it in the pasture, you are
welcome to stay. I’m not
saying the feral children will
not steal your balloon, take
it up to a thousand feet, and
drop glass gallon jugs on
the parking lot, or frighten
the concerned mothers and
the invalids who are attempting to use
the ramp. I’m just saying
there’s plenty to read here,
and it might not matter
what happens outside.

Hello, I am swept up in the
human drama. Behold the
universal culture and the individual
values, the spy games, the
sacred books and prejudice;
behold the sports and the
heart operations, the poverty
and the chemotherapy, the
Mississippi and the kindest
word; behold the designated
bring-back, the soaked-through
jacket, and, by God, the
looks of affection and the
curious rubber traveling mats;
behold the sleepy eyes and the
crabapple tree, the enamel,
the fire, the chocolate
pudding, and the patrol joining
hands; behold the end of Pittsburgh
and Des Moines, the worn
dinner jackets and the
watermelons; behold the window
and the stench of the rendering
plant, the wallowing, burbling
sinkage, the drowning garbage,
and the coupons for blood; behold
love possessed and stains, the
public announcement and the
nodding visitor, the Bruegel
and the Goethe, the aureole
of smoke, and the bite of
food; behold the kinds of
caresses, the dogwood trees
and the imagined ocean, the
islands of consolation, secrets,
and not knowing where the sea
once was.

We attach each pen to a flower
so that students will return our
If you need to write something,
choose a flower. But when you
are finished, return the flower
to its vase. Here our garbage
bags flutter like the tails of
friendly black cats. No worries.
You don’t have to think about your
blood or aircraft carriers, panthers
or anemones. You can walk
on floors of amethyst, as my
father did when he entered
the afterlife. Such as it will
be. You have a wonderful life,
and change is interesting.


Rustin Larson’s poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, North American Review, Poetry East, Saranac Review, and other magazines. The Wine-Dark House (Blue Light Press, 2009) is his latest collection. Crazy Star, his previous collection, was selected for Loess Hills Books’ Poetry Series in 2005. Larson won 1st Editor’s Prize from Rhino magazine in 2000 and has won prizes for his poetry from The National Poet Hunt and The Chester H. Jones Foundation, among others. A seven-time Pushcart nominee and graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing, Larson was an Iowa Poet at The Des Moines National Poetry Festival in 2002 & 2004, a featured writer in the DMACC Celebration of the Literary Arts in 2007 & 2008, and a featured poet at the Poetry at Round Top Festival in May 2012.