In these two poems Bruce Pratt gives us the feel of how noticing, how paying attention to specific details can lead to a sudden shift of awareness. In “Gunmetal Grey” the sketch turns to insight. Those snow devils, Orion hunting, the plummeting temperatures, the frost-skimmed windows letting him see but not feel the cold, all lead to what must have been an unspoken unease in the mind, that awareness of distant war, now allowed to surface. You could say almost every detail in this poem hints at how the natural world sketches—clouds, flurries, deepening evening light, powdery snow, the scrim of frost. It seems the mind seeing the world is also seeing itself as seen by the world.

“Alone” presents another kind of sketch, the simple recording of a day’s activities, until we come to understand, as the sketch proceeds, it is a kind of negative space, a love poem to the absent beloved, a poem of yearning, a catalog of life in the beloved’s absence.

Bruce Pratt is the author of the novel The Serpents of Blissfull, the poetry collection Boreal, and The Trash Detail: Stories, plus a poetry chapbook Forms and Shades. His fiction, poetry, drama, and essays have appeared in journals across the United States, and in Canada, Ireland, and Wales. He edits American Fiction.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ Poetry editor


Gunmetal Grey

Gunmetal grey clouds, flurries,

thirteen degrees, deepening evening,

new powder dusts dirty snowbanks,

confectioner’s sugar on chocolate.


Snow devils eddy over the road,

west wind sifts waving trees bare.

Wind dies, night settles, Orion hunts,

mercury plummets under a new moon.


Through frost-scrimmed windows,

I see but do not feel the cold,

the way you can watch the war

but only imagine its terror.




Early bird song. I ease from night’s covers

not to disturb, remember you’re not here.


In cool, fogged dawn make a press of coffee,

begin breakfast for two, remember again.


Drink a full mug, pour the rest in a mason jar

for tomorrow, mount the stairs to my office.


Lunch on the porch, quiet, quick,

the length of morning nothing said aloud.


Only the tap of computer keys, passing cars,

quarreling crows, sound in afternoon.


A silent dinner, wine, hot cup of tea.

Wait for your call, put music on low.


I don’t wish to live a second longer than you.


Image at top: Nora Tryon, A Change in the Weather, mixed media on board, 10 x 10 in.