Scavenging the Country for a Heartbeat: “Neil Shepard’s award-winning first book is an event of encouragement to me. In the low-voiced eloquence of his meditative lyrics I find no artifice, no pretension or faddishness, but instead clarity of mind and heart and honesty of technique... Moreover, in all these poems, Shepard brings us an astonishing originality of imagery, objects we had never thought of before. To read these poems is an awakening. I hope it comes to many readers.” (Hayden Carruth)
Shooting stars in Perseus,
luminous dust of creation,
come smoking out of the dark
and disappear as fast as we blink
back sleep. We watch from wheat fields
bits of planets exploding,
some astronomical number
of grain ripening in the dark.
Dimmer but more constant,
a satellite glints across the galaxy.
What speed to witness –
this man-wished thing
unbound from the earth’s slow round,
sailing across the face of suns and moons.
What speed we ourselves move at –
846 miles per hour rounding the earth,
64,000 miles per hour around the sun,
and the galaxy turns on a center
north of Hercules, spiraling
43,000 miles per hour – as we drift
in and out of sleep in Kansas,
the grain fields ripening,
crickets pulsing, no wind.
The night, still.