John Leax is the author of four poetry collections, as well as several books of non-fiction. Recently he retired from Houghton College in upstate New York where he has taught for more than thirty years. His writing is influenced by such writers of the outdoors as Henry David Thoreau, Thomas Merton and Wendell Berry.
Although he’s writing from within an evangelical community, his writing often lacks the religious tone of much evangelical writing. His collection Tabloid News, is a series of fourteen poems inspired by the absurd headlines in supermarket tabloids. Leax doesn’t try to force any spiritual message onto his subject, although they often lead him in meaningful directions.
The Task of Adam
Bare lists of words are found suggestive to an
imaginative and excited mind
Opened by chance to page 1376
and left on the desk outside my office door,
The American Heritage Dictionary
arrests my attention.
The photograph in the margin is what does it.
Nestled neatly between a drawing of
the brown trout, fat substitute
for the classy rainbow, introduced
to New York waters by eager sportsmen
at Caledonia, and outline sketches
of six different trowels,
the mustached face of Trotsky
glares up at my complacency.
I read “Russian revolutionist
and Soviet statesman; banished (1929);
assassinated in Mexico.”
That is all I know of revolution
and all I need to know.
The trout and the trowel,
the stream and the garden,
mark the limits of my care.
The task of Adam cast into the brambles,
is all I choose.
Ah Emerson. The corruption of man
is followed by the corruption of language.
These old words are perverted.
Take for example the guide words
in the corner of this page,
troposphere and truckle. They enclose
the revolution as surely as trout and trowel.
I could live a good rich life
within their definitions. They are
troubadour, trousers, and trousseau
fall between them. The succession
from poetry to pants to the bridal bed
is achieved as readily as my eye
glides down the page.
But the guide words fly off into abstraction.
Troposphere and truckle.
Fasten them to the world.
Breath and bed.
Let Trotsky glare.
Revolution is redefining words.
Adam among the brambles
in alliance with truth and God
is panting after Eve.
(Posted with permission of the poet)
Read my Books & Culture review of John Leax's poetry collection
Tabloid News here
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca