978-793-1553 fitz@johnfitz.com



Fitz’s Poetry

The Three Rivers Anthology


Approaching Poetry

~by Fitz

stinson225If there is anything I wish to be called, it is a poet, for poetry is the most elevated art, and apart from my love for my wife and children, it is the closest I can come to touching the hand of the truest and most present God. Perhaps to a person unmarked by poetry, my statement reeks of intellectual arrogance and conceit, but to me it is as simple as real love. It can never be a point of discussion. It is what it is. The tragic flaw of a writer is to recognize true greatness in poetry, because most of us who aspire to be poets will alway be left on the sidelines. We are astute enough to see through the swath of mediocrity that academics and effete sophists try to pass off as poetry, but we still cannot for the life of us compose verse that reaches the grandeur of what we know to be true poetry. Even now, over thirty years into my journey as an aspiring poet, I still feel like a kid standing beside Larry Bird at the free throw line, and all I can offer him is a rattling rim and my passion for the game .

Poetry is both beguiling and bewildering. It is incredibly hard to pin down poetry except to say, “I know it when I see it.” When I was first out of high school and wandering the back roads and railways of the country, I was convinced that poetry could only be the unfettered (and unedited) expression of who and what I was at any given point in time. I practiced a rambling unexpurgated style of poetry—a style that mimicked the freedom I was experiencing for the first time in my life. I filled notebook after notebook with long-winded rants and rambles. I convinced myself that every word was precious—too precious to alter or edit in any way. I hitchhiked through every state in the west; I wrote in the back of pickup trucks, along the sides of back roads and interstates, and by lonely sterno cans in makeshift camps. I can’t say that I created remarkable poetry, but I did pay my share of dues.

I carried more books than luggage, and I read with a passion I never thought possible, and I wrote constantly. I emptied my heart and soul and being as if it was my last gift to humanity, but, oddly, I never shared that poetry with anybody. I couldn’t let go of my old self completely. I couldn’t reconcile the simple Concord townie barely scraping through high school with the now thoughtful vagabond weeping with Odysseus by his ancient campfires. All I knew was that Odysseus had Ithaca to long for, while my kingdom was yet to be made. My panoply of Gods were the poets that came before me, poets who both tormented and mentored me in my own odyssey towards that kingdom where poetry lives in endless reign.

Aside from intuition, I had no idea where or how to start writing poetry. I wasn’t even sure “why” I wanted to write poetry. It was as if I had picked up a rough gem from the side of the road and recognized that it was not an ordinary stone. And so my first poems were rough and rambling. I was both hunter and prey searching for and escaping from an elusive self. Constantly transforming, I shifted between haiku like brevity and unending anthems. I thrashed in a sea of words like a drowning man manic and joyful for life. I cursed my teachers for not preparing me for this maelstrom, and I thanked them for leaving me untainted.

My new syllabus was the open road and whatever books that were handed to me by the fellow travelers and lost saints who picked up me up off the side roads and interstate on-ramps. They gave me the best of what they had, and I gave them back a naivete’ that must have resembled genuineness. Somehow they must have sensed that I did not want to just read; I wanted to be enlightened and transfixed, and so they filled my backpack with the giants of the beat generation: Kerouac, Whitman, Miller, Proust, Ginsburgh, Snyder, Brautigan, and Ferlinghetti. Older couples gave me Shelley, Wordsworth, and Yeats. In my homesickness for my hometown of Concord, I picked up a copy of “Walden” and some selected essays of Emerson. Whomever I was reading at a given time, I imitated in my writing. Looking back, I wasn’t as interested in what they wrote, but in how they wrote. It didn’t matter that I was not a great poet; I was happy to live like a poet—and that lesson has never left me.

Time and experience are relative. Though I was only on the road for a relatively small stretch of time, my life was set on a new course, and thankfully, an unwavering one. Still, all I know of poetry is that it has to be real; it has to spring from an examined life; it has to recognize the beauty and majesty of the most common of images and actions, and it has to be constructed and not cast like wild seed, sometimes laboriously, because that is the life of a poet. For both the poet and the hunter, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but only the poet captures the bird just to set it free. Only the poet smiles as the bird soars from his hand. Only a true poet smiles at anonymity. The words have to be enough.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of words in our language only a few can make it on to the page, and fewer still can rightly be called a poem. This sea of sand is your starting point. Every moment is an opportunity lost or gained. The person who does not recognize this urgency is not a poet.


If you want to be a poet, live like one.  






I am surprised sometimes
by the suddenness of November:
beauty abruptly shed
to a common nakedness—
grasses deadened
by hoarfrost,
persistent memories
of people I’ve lost.

It is left to those of us
dressed in the hard
barky skin of experience
to insist on a decorum
that rises to the greatness
of a true Thanksgiving.

This is not a game,
against a badly scheduled team,
an uneven match on an uneven pitch.

This is Life.
This is Life.
This is Life.

Not politely mumbled phrases,
murmured with a practiced and meticulous earnestness.

Thanksgiving was born a breech-birth,
a screaming appreciation for being alive—
for not being one of the many
who didn’t make it—
who couldn’t moil through
another hardscrabble year
on tubers and scarce fowl.

Thanksgiving is for being you.
There are no thanks without you.

You are the power of hopeful promise;
you are the balky soil turning upon itself;
you are bursting forth in your experience.

You are not the person next to you—
not an image or an expectation.
You are the infinite and eternal you—
blessed, and loved, and consoled
by the utter commonness
and community of our souls.

We cry and we’re held.
We love and we hold.

We are the harvest of God,
constantly renewed,
constantly awakened,
to a new thanksgiving.


The Tide

by Fitz | The Three Rivers Anthology

The Tide

They are building a world
and the plastic is fading:
Margaret and Eddie’s
buckets are split,
pouring out the warm Atlantic
as they race
along the tidal flat,
filling pools connected
by frantically dug canals.

Tommy squats naked
and screams in guttural joy
at the solitary horseshoe crab
donated by a stranger
with a large belly
and a huge smile.

Charlie thrashes through the shallows
chasing crabs
and impossible minnows.

Emma is happy
to let only the wind
fill her net.

Pipo steps warily
and warns us sternly
in his broken English
to anticipate the massive toad
lurking in the undertow.

Kaleigh stands far away
toes lapped
by the edge of gravity.

She is almost a teenager.
I see her
framed in a setting sun,
stretching out her arms,
holding back
the inevitable tide.

Making It Work

by Fitz | The Three Rivers Anthology


Making It Work


EJ and Pipo squat in the driveway
and poke their heads through
the wheel-well and pass
a half inch socket and WD 40
to my bloodied hand.

I shout out to them:
“The transmission cooler line
is completely shot,
and the thread
on the flare nut
is stripped bare—
it turns, but won’t catch,
into the radiator.
In short: we’re screwed.”

I can hear them giggling
and splashing in the oily cold
puddle I am soaked in.

While Pipo runs to get
the extra red hose we used
to fix the heater on the bus,
I send EJ to get the cement
we used to fix the gasket
on the wood stove.

In my sarcophagus
under the old Buick wagon,
I fumble through my pockets
and find some hose clamps
that just might work.

EJ slathers the flare nut
in an icing of black glue.
And so Pipo can use
his beloved tape measure,
he cuts me a piece of red hose
18 ½ inches long—exactly.

There is no turning back now:
I cut out the old line
and jam the flare nut
into the fitting
until it sets.

For a few minutes, everything
is dead serious.
Pipo lays on his belly
and fits the 18 ½ inch hose
to the cleanly cut ends
of the cooler lines.
EJ takes his flathead
and tightens the hose clamps,
while I keep
the damn flare nut
from moving.

And in the stale air,
beneath a 1988 LeSabre Wagon—
soaked in mud, love, oil and anti-freeze—
I am the luckiest man alive…


Joshua Sawyer

by Fitz | The Three Rivers Anthology


Joshua Sawyer

I doubt I’d ever have taken this road
had I known how fallen it really was
to disrepair: driving comically,
skirting ruts and high boulders, grimacing
at every bang on the oil pan.
I tell you it’s the old road to Wendell —
that they don’t make them like this anymore.
We’re bound by curious obligations,
and so stop by an old family plot
walled in by piles of jumbled fieldstone,
cornered to the edge of what once was field.
The picket gateway still stands intact,
somebody propped up leaning on a stick,
an anonymous gesture of reverence.
Only nature disrespects: toppling stone,
bursting with suckers and wild raggedness.
A gravestone, schist of worn slate, leans weathered:

Joshua Sawyer Died Here 1860

Another stone, cracked, has fallen over.
I reset the stone, and scrape the caked earth
as if studying some split tortoise shell,
and have keyed in to a distant birth —
His wife Ruth died young; so I picture him
stern with his only daughter, only child —
speaking for a faith which could defy her.
There’d be no passing onto when she died —
twenty-two, more words beside her mother.
Still these stones and fields you kept in order,
long days spent forcing sharp turns on nature,
accepting the loose stone and thin topsoil.

A Wendell neighbor must have buried you
whispering a eulogy which is as lost
as your daughter, your wife, and this farm:

—Joshua Sawyer

I’ve never been down this road before
I would like to speak with you of faith.

The English Soldier


There is a soldier dressed
in ancient English wool guarding
the entrance to the inn.
He is lucky for this cool night
awaiting the pomp
of the out of town
wedding party.

He is paid to be unmoved
by the bride’s stunning beauty
or her train
of lesser escorts.

He will not notice
this small stone
set across the square;
His eyes will not glisten
when he hears
that two brothers
fell here,
picked out
of disciplined lines
a hot and hasty retreat
back to Boston.

He will not
chasten his comrades
for leaving them
in foreign dust—
the dull and whistling holes
torn into soft
and homesick wool.

He betrays nothing.

he collects his check
and drives home.
~The Colonial Inn
Concord, MA.

The Goathouse

In reaching for the scythe
I’m reminded of the whetstone
and the few quick strokes
by which it was tested—
the hardness of hot August;
the burning of ticks
off dog backs.

It’s winter now
in this garage made barn,
and the animals seem only curious
that I’d be here so late
on a cold night lit dimly
by a single hanging bulb.

They don’t bother to stir
and disturb their warm huddle.
Cudchewers, we pay each other
little attention.

The curve of the handle still fits.
The blade shines,
its edge oiled against rust.
The loft is full
of Jack Mattison’s field.

There’s nothing to do —
my content is preparedness,
the simplicity of knowing.

The Ice Storm of '08

by Fitz | The Three Rivers Anthology

The Ice Storm of ’08

A lone artist made a rhino
out of limbs and branches—
the detritus
of the great ice storm of 08.

Its skeletal mosaic
standing sentinel
beside the washed out ruts
of the gravel driveway
reminds me
of the blanket of ice
sheeting over everything
west and north of 495.

A lonely gargoyle
on a New Hampshire side road:
its sad, gaped mouth,
formed out of gnarled limbs
torn from a tangled canopy,
tries to tell
another side of the story.


Saturday Morning

by Fitz | The Three Rivers Anthology

Saturday Morning


Before the pancakes,
soccer games, and birthday parties;
before the mowing and raking
and grouting the tile;
before I even glance
at the calendar hung
like a graffiti nightmare
under shelves filled
with the frosted flakes,
cheerios, and cocoa puffs,
I make a cup of coffee
and watch the slow
unfolding of the day:

Groggy and unsteady,
Charlie is up first
and knows to ask politely
if he can watch TV.
I practice a grave and stern
and nod quietly.

He bursts out of
his warm cocoon of sleep
and sets the day
in motion, and drawn
by the faint roar of Scooby Doo,
five more painted monarchs
float down the stairs
and glide past me
unnoticed and gather
clustered on the couch.

I close my book and count out
the remaining measures
of this sacred time.
Born again into
a new day,
they will soon
come back to me
with their insatiable hunger.