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A Note to Hayden Carruth from Miami

John Balaban is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, including four volumes that together have won the Academy of American Poets’ Lamont Prize, a National Poetry Series selection, and two nominations for the National Book Award.  His Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems won the 1998 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.  In 2003, he was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim fellowship.  In addition to writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, he is a translator of Vietnamese poetry and a past  president of the American Literary Translators Association.  Balaban is poet in residence and professor of English at North Carolina State University.  “A Note to Hayden Carruth from Miami” was originally published in the book Path, Crooked Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2006).  Click here to print this poem.

 Here, where orchids scent our evenings

and the sapodilla drops its spotted fruit,

gray, gritty, sweet, I raise a glass

of the “poet’s cheap, sufficient chardonnay”

and salute your freezing northern lights,


your days in the muddy slop of springtime

when trillium unfurls its delicate tongue,

where skunk cabbage unwinds in the icy bog,

and bleeding heart trembles in Isabel’s garden.

We’ve never met and probably never will


except in the imagined land of green things

beyond your daughter’s death, beyond folly,

beyond fame, beyond indignation and pain,

toasting the first life in small things

fresh from the earth with their tentative yes.