At this moment in time which of your own poems is your personal favorite, and why?
THE ROSE PEDDLER
Through empty daybreak alleys, on streets
steaming with last night’s rain, he pedals
into another day of passing strangers, a blur
of empty glances at his roses’ muted horns.
Evenings he returns home, his cart sagging
with unwanted flowers. The sky ash and cinder,
the hours falling darker in a world without want.
Later he’ll dream their faces pressed to windows
watching him ride by, his bundled heap of bouquets
a red wick dimming into the distance. Dream of one
who opens his mouth to sing: gone goes my beauty,
gone goes all. His words like singed petals falling.
Dream of ember and star, of chimney smoke
and shadow. Of silhouette, of billowing gauze.
Of moon and maw, the night a sweet-tinged, scarlet
bulb, wet stems loosely tied, of bows falling open.
Of one who swallows the thornsong of his want.
Of one who hushes the bloodloud wish.
The longer I’ve been at this trade, the more I’m attracted to poems I write then puzzle over afterward. Not the ones that hit the bull’s eye. I know this type of poem by the way it leaves me with a sense of accomplishment but deep mystery. A feeling of being found but also of having been eluded. Like the way you reach into the shallows for a bright yellow stone but due to the refraction come up with a dull jade stone a few stones over, something you didn’t aim to hold. The ones that have only a passing flicker in them that I recognize, the ones hard to pinpoint or paraphrase. I have recently started painting, and maybe that’s part of it. I like poems that feel somehow like paintings—that move me but repel explanation. This recent unpublished poem “The Rose Peddler” is just such a piece. It is by no means the best of a large body of new work I’ve written this fall. In fact, I like it precisely because I don’t know why. I’m not sure where it came from or how exactly it missed its mark, though I know that it did, and so have a greater affinity for its waywardness and the way it led me to surprise. A lot of my recent work has been exploring themes of longing, and this poem, to me, investigates the sweet charged aura around desire unsatisfied, the ache of bypassing beauty.
Robert Fanning is the author of six poetry collections, including four full-length collections: Severance (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2019), Our Sudden Museum (Salmon Poetry, Ireland, 2017), American Prophet (Marick Press, 2009), and The Seed Thieves (Marick Press, 2006), as well as two chapbooks: Sheet Music (Three Bee Press, 2016), and Old Bright Wheel(Ledge Press Poetry Award, 2001). His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, The Atlanta Review, and many other journals. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Sarah Lawrence College, he is a Professor of Creative Writing at Central Michigan University. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Wellspring Literary Series in Mt. Pleasant, MI., where he lives with his wife, sculptor Denise Whitebread Fanning, and their two children.