Doug Ramspeck


There was one question about the moon
catching fire in the trees beyond the river.
It rained for weeks after that. The waters
swelled over the banks like an interrogation.
I reached out to touch you as you slept,
or perhaps as I slept I reached out to touch you.
In my dreams I was sitting on a bus bench,
answering questions, though the questions
arrived in the form of wrinkled leaves clinging
for a moment to my trousers, of wind flapping
my shirt like a sail yet leaving me becalmed.
In the morning there were imaginary children
on the swingset, and as they moved their arms
and legs in unison, as they lifted higher and higher
into the air, they queried the earth, and the earth
answered with the way you used two fingers to move
your bangs from your eyes, with the way you
covered your yawn not with a fist but an open palm.
Later you turned to me and said, What is this?
And later still, Are you watching? Each time the answer
came in the form of a yellow mud dauber folding
its wings parallel to its body or the sound
of a siren in the distance, as though the soybean field
across the highway was moaning. Two crows
were playing amanuensis in your favorite willow
beyond the garage, and I answered you by watching
them lift their great dark bodies into the air.

Doug Ramspeck’s poetry collection, Black Tupelo Country, was selected for the 2007 John Ciardi Prize for Poetry and is published by BkMk Press (University of Missouri-Kansas City). Several hundred poems have appeared in journals that include West Branch, Rattle, Confrontation Magazine, Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Hunger Mountain, and Hayden’s Ferry. He directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing and composition at The Ohio State University at Lima.  He lives in Lima with his wife, Beth, and their daughter, Lee.