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Two Poems by John Freeman


Every Sunday belfry bats of dread
flapped in the day’s corners—
I raised my head at 25, at 30, then 35,
as the sun arced down, always
wretched by the coming dark.
I assumed it was the awakening
singular to humans:
one day, that day would be the last.
The gods, they hide in plain
sight in our days. Thor in
Thursday, Frigg in Friday.
Now in the Wednesday of my life,
Odin speaks as I sit
on this bench, watching a line
of schoolchildren pass,
and a more benign set of ravens
lands on my shoulders.
Those two days spent free—
every week, no workbook
or desk, just running,
drinking water, practicing home-run
swings, then the rust-warmed
burst of water from a hose, its
green tube always hot in the hand—
they were golden. I simply
did not want them to end. Two
decades and finally I see
I am free again.


I leave the spread of your hair and walk
into the park, sit in the hollow of night’s
carcass. Others are here, lovers stranded
by love. Islands beneath a cerulean sky.
They stare into the trees, not looking, not
searching, but holding the small part
of themselves they do not give, in order to
give, cupping it, like tiny blue flames.

About the Poet

John Freeman

John Freeman is the founder of the literary annual Freeman’s, which has been a finalist for the National magazine award for fiction, and the author and editor of a dozen books, including the poetry collections Maps (Copper Canyon Press, 2017), The Park (Copper Canyon Press, 2020), and Wind, Trees (Copper Canyon Press, 2022). His nonfiction books include The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand Year Journey to Your Inbox (Scribner. 2009), How to Read a Novelist (FSG Originals, 2013), and Dictionary of the Undoing (MCD x FSG Originals, 2019). With the poet Tracy K Smith, he co-edited the anthology There’s a Revolution Outside, My Love (Vintage, 2021). Freeman was the editor of Granta magazine from 2009 to 2013, the executive editor of LitHub (2014 to 2020), and served six years on the board of the National Book Critics Circle. He lives in New York City, where he is an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf, an artist-in-residence at New York University, and from where he hosts the California Book Club, a monthly zoom discussion of a new classic in Golden State literature, sponsored by Alta Magazine.

Related Event

    • On Thursday, November 30th from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Just Buffalo will present a conversation between authors John Freeman and Omar El Akkad at Just Buffalo Literary Center, 468 Washington St., 2nd Floor, in Buffalo. Books from both authors will be available for purchase from Talking Leaves Books at the event.The event is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged.

The Poem of the Week feature is curated by literary legacy awardee R.D. Pohl.