Archive for the Scott Owens Category

Larry’s Pinnacle Moment by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on October 17, 2013 by Scot

after Tim Peeler


Even Larry had to wonder
what the hell they were thinking
to invite someone like him to Fenway Park
to read what he calls poetry in front of owners
and lawyers and serious sportswriters
and baseball stadium poet laureates.

They must not have known that he was born
from almost nothing and still had almost nothing
except the good sense his daddy gave him
and an appreciation of good whiskey.

They must not have known, until he pulled up
in front of the posh Commonwealth Hotel
and as the bellboy picked up his one
cheap bag, he asked, “Ya’ll know which way
it is to the bar?” that for him poetry
wasn’t Take Me Out to the Ball Game
or Casey at the Bat, but much rougher stuff,
busted mill house porch, contours
of darkness hovering over terraced field.

They must not have known that for him
the real heart of baseball would always beat
on a Legion field next to a cotton mill
somewhere north of Cherryville, North Carolina.

They must not have known that even with baseball
which he knew to be one of the few good things
left, he’d tell it the way it was,
full of greed and labor law, and mostly memory
of how things couldn’t be anymore.

Somewhere Norman by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on August 3, 2013 by Scot

Somewhere Norman wonders
what happened to all the days
and nights that seemed to lie before him.

Somewhere Norman remembers
all the words he thought to say,
meant to say, never
brought himself to say.

Somewhere Norman regrets
he never let himself be wrong
enough to find the way
to make himself right.

Somewhere Norman knows
he let those who mattered
most mostly down.

Somewhere Norman feels

Somewhere Norman dreams
of things that could have been,
should have been, would have
been, if only he
had learned to be a little
less Norman, a little
more human, a little
somebody, somewhere,
but not here,
never here again.

The Improbability of Poetry as Religion by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on May 12, 2012 by Scot

Poetry will never be a religion,
though its adherents are zealots
and believe it can lead to epiphany,
salvation, the thing with wings,
though its mythology is complete
and just as sordid as any
faith worth its salt,
full of desire and incest,
fallacy and betrayal,
though it engenders spirituality,
morality, sanctimony,
though it places the word first.

Still, none have gone to war for poetry,
or hell for not believing in pantoums.
None have been denied matrimony,
public office or citizenship
for practicing metaphor, assonance,
the shameless pursuit of meter.

No, poetry will never be a religion,
for it knows no heresy or sacrilege,
asks no one to die for it,
and offers no unassailable answers.

Three Poems by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on March 17, 2012 by Scot

Portrait of the “New” South as a Pick-up Truck

Big and gray,
jacked up for clearance,
floating on 33s,
gun rack in the back window,
stag silhouette overlooking
community college sticker,
check it out as I storm
past on the disappearing interstate
merge lane, nearly forcing
your Prius off the road,
dangling from the unused
trailer hitch, oversized,
chrome-plated, flashing in sunlight,
even my truck has balls.

Yellow Xterra

With the rear seat folded up
he could just fit stretched out
in the back of the yellow Xterra,
but he was exceedingly happy that
with the rear seat folded up
he could just fit stretched out
in the back of the yellow Xterra.

Through tinted glass he saw
a perfect sky of stars,
broken only by shapes of leaves,
knew the quiet of solitude,
absence of expectation.

The problem with desire, he said,
is the unlikelihood of satisfaction.


On the Idea of Poetic Responsibility

I want to call in sick today
and stay home and write poetry.
I am sick, after all,
sick of clock-watching and making a living.
sick of dry-erase boards
and overstuffed books of overread literature.
sick of Frost and students,
not that any of them have done anything wrong.
I love Frost, and on any other day
I might want nothing more than to be with my students
and hear how they too have promises to keep,
and help them see the slipperiness of Frost.
But today there are more important things to do.
There is reverie and reflection.
There is memory to be pursued.
There are trails diverging in my mind.
There is this poem, and there is you
waiting for all the promises to be filled.

Four Poems by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on February 5, 2012 by Scot

Three Wishes

It’s no wonder we never get very far
despite a world of wishes.
So many waste the first
simply proving it’s true,
endless sausages, a donkey’s head
on the man next door, and then spend
the second undoing the foolish first,
meatballs instead of rain, pigs that fly.
The real damage, however,
comes in thinking too big
on the last one, the loved one back
from the dead (uncleaned, health unimproved)
a mountain of wealth we suffocate under,
world peace (achieved through rapture).

Continue reading

A Short Ride with Scott Owens

Posted in INTERVIEWS, Scott Owens on February 5, 2012 by Scot

–Hey Scott, Teachers are some my favorite people.

RT— What and where do you teach?

Scott–I teach creative writing, composition, and literature at Catawba Valley Community College, as well as creative writing workshops across the country.

RT— What led you into that profession?

Scott–Throughout my rather tortured childhood, it was always teachers who seemed to show me the way to better possibilities, so to me being a teacher always seemed the best thing one could do.

RT— Back when you started writing poetry, who did you emulate?

Scott–Early on I emulated Frost to a fault.  Fortunately, I discovered Galway Kinnell as an undergraduate, but both men’s poetry remain deeply influential in my writing.

RT–If you could have a do-over..what would it be?

Scott— I don’t really believe in do-overs.  Changing one thing would inevitably change many others as well.  If I could magically isolate one choice so that everything else remained unchanged, I would skip my second marriage.

RT–So if Scott Owens had “two minutes”?

Scott–If I had two minutes, I’d like to make love to my wife, but that’s a lot of pressure.  I think I’d rather just take my wife and daughter and start walking into the closest beautiful patch of woods I could find.

Congress by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags , on December 8, 2011 by Scot

In a room made of alabaster walls
set round with a hundred distinguished chairs
and the random exhalation of nothing,
the men argue the future of heads.

The men argue for random nothings,
petty pet projects, alabaster pretensions,
set round with a hundred strutting chairs,
oblivious to the future of heads.

Walled in with random pet projects
of alabaster distinguished men,
the future of heads exhales nothing
in a room set round with unmoving chairs.

The future of alabaster walls crumbles,
distinguished chairs collapse beneath
the weight of a hundred unmoving men.
What remains is less than nothing.

13 Ways of Places by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on August 3, 2011 by Scot

The first place I remember —
a wide chair, 2 babies
in the seat, my brother and I
astride each arm.

A place we came back to
year after year, every time
a man left or hit us,
7-acre farm full of chickens,
corn, cows, tomatoes,
2 boys in 2 single beds.

On Phoenix Street, behind the KFC,
I learned to ride a bike,
and when the trash can
caught on fire,
I was beaten for lying
until it blew up.

My mother’s nose is bloodied,
my brother saved by not
being able to reach the gun,
every night punctuated by trains
going anywhere but here.

What could be better
than a bedroom of my own,
window onto a wide front porch,
until a lovesick neighbor
knocked on the door at night,
pulled a gun
and emptied his stomach before me.

No doubt the worst place
we ever lived,
downhill from everywhere,
a place for runoff to collect.

The streets here breathe
with overarching steam.
Night and day
the rumbling of machinery
causes voices to rise.

This close to history, to other,
I had to teach myself the language,
find ways to venture down the Rhine,
south to mountains
without my family’s help.

Little wonder I got out early.
What does it say of a marriage
to remember nothing that matters
of the places it lived?

Who could use a house
with 7 bedrooms, 5 baths?
Who could keep it clean,
living on campus
in the Headmaster’s house,
myself master of nothing.

I always wanted to write
poems of place,
but having lived
in 14 cities, 34 houses,
I never knew
which place to write about.

Nearing 48,
the seventh year in this house,
the longest I’ve ever lived
in one place, I undertake
the permanence of a treehouse,
the only structure I’ve ever made.

Even as a child I knew,
left alone, I would walk out
in Cade’s Cove and lie down
and wait for deer to consume
my body turned to grass.

Two Poems by Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on July 23, 2011 by Scot

To Whom It May Concern

Dear Sir (or Madam),
The life that you sent me doesn’t work.
I’m returning it herein
and expect a full refund.
Please find enclosed the following:
One clueless mom;
she tries but really can’t manage
(perhaps future models
should come with fewer children
and greater self-esteem);
Three men who want to be called
Daddy but don’t deserve the title
(please note the cowardice,
drunkenness, rage and stupidity
they bear were not of my doing);
One tattered file of memories
undoubtedly inaccurate and incomplete;
One crummy job after another;
One string of failed relationships,
all my fault;
One disappointing body wracked
with pain, guilt, confusion;
One shattered set of ideals;
An indeterminate number
of vague promises, uncertain
answers; One bag of dreams,
empty but unfulfilled.


Just What the Hell Is

black and white? I mean
Billy Mays is dead and still
trying to sell me armbands
that hold nails and hammer,
Jupiter Jack, Awesome
Auger, Instant Scratch
Remover, I mean we
celebrate Christopher Columbus
because he discovered
a continent already populated
by millions and then  tried
to kill, rape, convert, enslave
those millions, I mean
what part of Christian theology
isn’t prefigured
by stories from other religions
condemned by Christian theology
because their stories weren’t
Christian, I mean is everything
as arbitrary as one-fourth
human, one-eighth black,
one-sixteenth native-American,
and I had a student once
who claimed pure blood
because she was descended
from the von Trapp family,
I mean am I the only one
who remembers
that Maria was an orphan?

Do me a favor,
if you’re not comfortable
with the definition of river
being constantly changing
molecules of water roughly
bordered by eroding banks,
the pull of gravity,
and the saturation point
of muddy soil, then just
shut the hell up!

Featured Poet–Scott Owens

Posted in Scott Owens with tags on March 27, 2011 by Scot

How to Make Sure Your Boys Stay Boys

Raise them to be tough
and self-sufficient.
Don’t coddle them
or accept excuses.
Don’t dote or pamper
or get excited
about anything they do.

Demand persistence,
ambition, grit,
and absolute obedience.

If they fall down,
tell them to get up.
If they get hurt,
tell them to toughen up.
If they cry, tell them
If you don’t stop,
I’ll give you something
to really cry about.

Never talk about anything
but sports and how they are always
wrong, how they are too young,
too naïve, too idealistic,
too stupid to understand,
how they’ll think differently
when they’re older.

Never hold them.
When you get that urge
to touch them,
use punches instead of hugs.

Make sure they know
no matter what they do
it will never be good enough.

And when you leave their mother
for the third and final time,
don’t call or write,
offer no apology
or explanation, no heart
to heart, man to man.
Offer, as always,
nothing at all.


Repeating a Word Doesn’t Make It So

He likes having thought of it so well
he says again
–Robert Frost

He could have stayed
to begin with,
four simple rooms,
an easy smile,
good intentions,
farmfed beauty.

He could have been more
instead of wanting
more. Pudgy fingers
holding pages open
should have been enough.

is a place that when you have to go there
there is no one to take you in.

Light. Light! he screams,
as darkness
to fall.


I Know People

I know people
whose parents nailed
them beneath the floorboards,
locked them in trunks,
left them in darkness for hours.

I know people
whose mothers hung
themselves in the barn,
slit their wrists,
swallowed the barrel.

I know people
whose fathers beat
them to unconsciousness,
raped them repeatedly,
left them before they were born.

Still, I know people
who inhabit my darkest
nights and place their hands
on the back of my neck
to rub my fears away.
Farm Story

Otis tended that mare every day
for three years, called her Darling, Sweetie,
Sunshine, hugged her neck, cleaned hooves,
gave her fresh water, hay, apples,
hummed a lover’s tune while brushing out
every knot and burr.  She had cost
him plenty, and he was proud to have her, thought
he might even breed her when time and sense coincided,
but then, when she kicked Brenda full in the chest
for nothing more than walking too close behind her,
he hardly lost the time it took to see her
safe in her mother’s soothing arms
before returning, rifle in hand,
to leave no doubt where his allegiance lay.

13 Ways of Using a Big Backyard

Children swing from limbs
of maple and oak.

Under the trees
a hammock out of sight
of anyone despite
the absence of fence.

Yesterday two Cooper’s hawks
chased each other from maple
to pecan to housetop
while I stood silent below.

Tree fort, canebrake, grape vine hideaway,
tunnel beneath acuba hedge,
endless source of secret worlds
without ever leaving home.

Lying on my back
in this year’s vinyl pool,
I teach Sawyer to see
dragons swimming in the sky.

After midnight the boys
have friends over again,
building a fire in the detached porch
safely away from lethal roads.

Once fixed,
the dog never
had a need
to leave.

The herb garden grows
basil and oregano,
rosemary and thyme,
amid things
I’ll never use,
mullein and valerian,
wormwood and heal all.

Even this close to downtown,
three rows of corn
can’t ruin the landscape.

When the peach tree
arose from last year’s
discarded pit
I let it stay
where it started.

Even in a yard this big
the imagination fears
what might not happen, what days
may never be dreamed.

In the backyard
on a night when sleep
seemed as far away
as whippoorwills
he counted stars
amid the white
noise of cicadas.

If he winds up alone
he knows it will take days
for anyone to find him.