Saturday, May 26, 2018

Acceptable Time — Tom Moore (Ravenna Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Acceptable Time.  Tom Moore.  Ravenna Press.  Spokane, Washington.  2016.


The boulders are whispering in the sea heat.

It's the same sun they've known
for a million years, the same sea.

As we walk along the beach we might
think they're just

dumb stones

but they are merely slow.
It takes so long for their mouths
to open (and a single vowel ten-thousand

years to form) that we don't hear.

We don't sense the changes overcoming
these rocks

as they split themselves into speech

nor the language of minds so strange
we're blurs on a copper sun.


That's how you write a poem!  Is it just me? I had to read "Rock" two or three times before I absorbed it all, before it sunk in.  Sometimes I think my head is made out of rock.

When Tom Moore is on, and he is on like a freaking siren, he is electric.  And funny.  Dark funny — and all you regular readers of Today's book of poetry know that we like that best.

As one of our Today's book of poetry heroes, the great Charles Bukowski said, when asked about writing poems:  "they must be full of power, they must make you want to turn the page."  And Tom Moore is all over that.

Don't be distracted by the lazy Bukowski quote.  Today's book of poetry loves Buk, but to be clear, Tom Moore's poetry is nothing like Charles the B.  We used the quote because Moore not only has power, he knows how to use it, and yes, we want to turn the page.

Hunting Out of Season

Though it's not his habit to be contrite
he enter the forest cautiously

for this is the place where the light over-spills
frozen ponds

and flocks in the long grass gather.
After checking his compass to make

quite sure

he's lost
he starts

to sing mating songs—waits
for the deer girls to show.

Slowly, they spill
from the forest with
legs of careful stepping

and their heads held high—

so near

the whole herd
clatters through his brain.

The eyes of each are blessed
with the gift of

perfect trajectory

and his songs bore into their minds
like bullets

they can't hear.


Today's book of poetry had to get Max, our Sr. Editor, out of his private salon/saloon, and team him up with Milo, our head tech, to try and find out who this Tom Moore is.  No luck at all.  Nothing!  The only thing Today's book of poetry knows about Tom Moore is that he can burn.

If he were a boxer he'd be a champ and most of his opponents would later complain that they didn't see it coming.  Moore has the velvet glove with a big old anvil inside.

What Today's book of poetry most admired in Moore's Acceptable Time was the Moore never rushes anything.  Moore likes to play it sweet until just before the curtain, and it works.  These poems act like crisp fables, the lessons uncertain until the last line, last word.  That's how to make it sing.


At first it stayed in the shoebox
in the closet
in the hall

and talked to itself about the dog
that once ran its tongue

along the lid of the box
that went away when it heard

a noise

and never came back.
In the spring it discovered
it could unlearn the night and its own


Now, it's summer
—stuffy, warm, and deep—
and still it lies in the shoebox.

A tendril has started to dig
through the floor

drawing its strength from
the rotten wood

driving its thin brain steadily
into the other side of consciousness.

If we listened, we might
hear its heaving

comically serious
weightlifter grunts—feel

the house slip.


Our morning read here at Today's book of poetry was a little quieter than normal.  It is an overcast Saturday morning here in Ottawa and some of our staff phoned in with the Friday night flu.  Today's book of poetry likes to think we are an understanding employer and have decided not to flog any of them.  But they will pay.

Tom Moore would understand.

I put India Arie on the box with her version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan," the Pharoah Sanders classic.  Everyone in the office knew it was time for business and gathered round.  When India finished I read Acceptable Time to the troops.  Even Max stayed for the duration.

Max's approval carries a lot of weight here and it certified my contention, Tom Moore impressed us all day long.


Sometimes the body has done enough.
It's not that the flesh
doesn't care

what the soul might have wanted
or for those who've come
by thinking
they could help—

it's because of all the partial deaths

that have happened before that
the last's made almost


If the flesh could talk to the soul, it might
ask why, with skin flaking off and the
breasts having out-lived

their usefulness
it should go on?

Yet the soul can't answer
these or any other questions.

After midnight
the halls quiet down—

even the bacteria yawn.

Perhaps she would have heard
the bags of fluid beeping

as the bodies were washed by hand

or from somewhere far away
the echo of a flood tide, booming.

When the end finally came the
details of her death must
have been quite


like the glint she saw on a
metal hinge, the 
railing as

the light descended.


Today's book of poetry played the full four poem Monty today because Mr. Moore earned it.  Acceptable Time is a remarkable little book that punches way above its weight.

Tom Moore is a Senior Instructor of Liberal Studies at Western Washington University.


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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