Today's poetry for today's world

Lex Runciman


Born and raised in Portland, Lex Runciman has lived most of his life in Oregon's Willamette Valley.  He holds graduate degrees from the writing programs at the University of Montana and the University of Utah.  Runciman taught for eleven years at Oregon State University and is now Professor of English at Linfield College, where he received the Edith Green Award in teaching in 1997.  His newest collection of poems is One Hour that Morning (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2014).  He is also the author of three earlier books of poems: Luck (1981), The Admirations (1989) which won the Oregon Book Award, Out of Town (2004), and Starting from Anywhere (2009)   He and Deborah Jane Berry Runciman have been married more than forty years and are the parents of two grown daughters.






Click on book cover to buy One Hour that Morning.


   Will Not Go Away

(from the title sequence “One Hour That Morning”)



Water endlessly over boulders,

snow a blue white falling and disappearing,

rain crater and bounce,

high current, that hard-shouldered hurry,

low September whisper

and murmur under stars.


What will not go away must be 

peach skin and how it peels,

the free stone welcome a tongue relearns,

ease of a blade’s divisions – onion, tomato,

cantaloupe rind, fruit and goop and seeds,

and here are plates and bowls

and the people who help themselves,

all their voices say

and how their faces laugh.


What will not go away may be trivial

as the feel of a dish towel,

a musical phrase, the look of the top of a head. 


A chestnut ages a smooth and remarkable brown

the color of winter ale. 

Some of what will not go away

makes stuttering, anguished breath. 

A bitter steeped tea. 

And some days from the cup of your scalded hands

you must drink again what will not go away.



From One Hour That Morning, Salmon Poetry (Ireland), 2014,

and first published in Tar River Poetry.




Click on book cover to buy Starting from Anywhere.





THE MOOD LIGHTENED IN MANOR ROAD”                                                                        

                                                          --Andrew Motion



Aunt Lillian’s hives subsided

and the dog’s catarrh resolved with a packet of beef gristle

expelled as we listened to the symphony.

Blocked for a fortnight by snow, the glazier’s van arrived at last

to replace the makeshift cashmere window plug

required after the crow flew through lead came and glass

and fell dead on an open page of the Oxford English Dictionary,

“C” volume, its black neck broken.


After multiple gin fizzes, Mother has arrayed herself in silks

and George’s Stetson.  She dances to Muddy Waters

with Father in his bear costume, complete with growling.

Uncle Winslow burnt the tree in a roar –

a wonder the chimney survived, and

the several second cousins have formed fruitcake

into balls they now roll for tenpins in the hall.


Outside, we’re delighted how bells peal

and the human voice carries over snow.  Walter calls.

Edna sends her best regards, as do Maude and Frank.

I wept a little this morning, thinking of poverty,

illness, the numberless orphans –

thank God no more talk of presents.


Winter sunlight, winter dark –

they are the best, don’t you think?  Must go

with all our love or this shall miss the post,

though I know there is always something more,

something important I have forgot.



From Starting from Anywhere, Salmon Poetry (Ireland), 2009

and first appeared in Fine Madness




Click on the book cover to buy Out of Town.








In the garden

Before everything fell into its separateness,

Before everything fell apart,

The mute and noisy world sang -- it was one thing --

And we had no need, no need for speech.


Pears and the mayfly hatch were one thing.

And plums withering and olives littering the floor

Were one thing.  And what the spiders said spinning,

What slugs intoned, what onions in their harmonies grew,

What a kestrel’s eye understood and the mosquitoes knew

And what leeches and eels contemplated in their solitude

Was one thing.  The arc of the sun rising and Venus rising

And the moon peering at us with its rheumy eye

And papyrus in the backwash, the kelp forest

And the swoop of bats and their dreamless sleep

And the open mouths of poppies, and sand dunes,

A drift of camas, a cane thicket, jackrabbits

And purple vetch, a stand of wheat or mustard or daisies,

A horse with its nostrils flared to the wind

Was one thing.


Afterwards, for our consolation and despair,

Our guessing and second guessing, our anger and stammer

And painful joy, we had to learn to speak to learn

How clumsy we had become

And wrong, foolish, arrogant, partial, and loud.

It’s all we can do to think the world we breathe in,

The chant and rhythm of it, catching

The unsayable shape and echo

Which was one thing -- speech

And silence, certainty and doubt,

The wakefulness and the sleeping,

The error and the remedy.




From Out of Town, Cloudbank Books, 2004;

originally appeared in Willow Springs




Click on book cover to buy The Admirations.  








Pacific or not, the skies of my heart are colored by

      the sea.  Color of doves, they bunch like fleece. 

They call to their upper reaches muslin and linen.

They rain. 

Blackened, they go, some mornings, all the hues to blue. 


The landscape of my heart breathes trees, and under them

      mosses, creeks, trillium. 

Basalt uplifts and snow make a year of advances

      and of retreats. 

Thus the waters of the landscape of my heart

ice the hands that cup them, and for the love of trout

      feed caddis and mayflies,

and offer for maniacal salmon gravel, cascades and

      pools: leaves drift, wet pebbles shine.

Breeze through shade is balm. 


The air of my heart is fog, is dew and clear, wood smoke,

     salt and wet.  Its notes fill my ears. 

It colors fire, blooms roses and apples,

and warms the slumped naps of summer afternoons.


Muddy roiling, a river arriving, a river going away,

bridges make the cities of my heart. 

Walking over, we pause, some of us: we lean on our arms

      and look.


And as for the people of my heart, of only a few

      do I know their names

and they know who they are.




From Starting from Anywhere, Salmon Poetry (Ireland), 2009

First appeared in Windfall



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