Geoffrey Godbey • Speaker and Consultant • 814-237-2575 •


Some of my poems appeared previously in Eleven, The Nation, Malahat Review, Westigan Review, Pembroke Magazine, Pivot, Northwest Review, Congress II—re-printed in Zero Makes Me Hungry—A Collection of Poems for Today. New York: Scott Foresman, 1976, Reflections, New York: Scott Foresman, 1983, Remove the Blindfold: Book 2. Toronto: Oxford University Press, Canada. 1987, State College Magazine, The Little Magazine, The Small Pond, The World and I, Twelve Festival Poets—1968—1978, edited by Deborah Austin, Jack McManis, and Sandra Nestlerode. State College, PA: Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, 1978.

The Same Old Thing

Birds know what to do
in autumn.

They flock, fly blind
till some old message
directs their longing.

But we stay here

mist coming off the mountain

the bash and plunge of football

schools opening for the restless

the thin light
suddenly telling me
what I asked about
as a little boy.

Six Questions for Snowflakes

From whose dreaming fingertips
did you drop?

Are you leaving home with strangers
or arriving home with blind friends?

Have you finished speaking
or not yet begun?

If you land in the river
will you fall asleep or awaken?

If you land on the ground
will you disappear or get bigger?

When I let go as you have
through whose kingdom will I fall?


When you began in me
you would not wait for me
or speak of suitable arrangements.

I tried to give you away.

I tried to teach you manners.

I tried to be your ancestor.

I dressed you up
and took you places
you never asked to go.

You vanished like a cat.

But sometimes now
in this house
when I hear the whir
of my sleeping daughters,
my wife plunging
in her far blue ocean,
you enter again . . .

Rib in the
ghost of intention

Small star come home
to its dark face.

Wind Shadow

If the wind had a shadow
it would be a lost dancer

and trees would long
to have its cover

recognizing a stranger
who had always been

what they
were reaching for

but the wind’s shadow
would of course

have only one word

and that word
(being mostly breath

and shared life)
would still give comfort

when the trees considered
their long time alone

their long memory
and how many times

they had said goodbye
to the light

At Some Point—My Daddy

At some point you will
want credit for what
has happened to you
but what has happened
is a child
sliding down the chute,
letting go at first,
letting go at last,
hanging on in between.

The willow tree tells you
there is no accounting
for the years that were
tossed in its branches.

April’s last snow
blows off the pines
into already green grass
not knowing about dying

there is only traveling.

When you find home
you understand your death.

I have a home.

My Daddy had a home,
farm home
he carried in him all his life.
Lived stunned and kind and angry
Kentucky poor with his withered leg
and Harvard
and his loving mother,
haughty father
who blew pipe smoke
at him to hide
the imperfection.
And Mr. Miller,
the black man who
gave him the wisdom
that comes from the
leap over despair
when you see that
the morning in June
is still given to you.

All he did for us,
playing catch on the grassy knoll,
comforting me when,
as a five year old,
I crapped my pants
roaming in the back yard.

It happens, he told me,
to the best of us.

Listening when I spoke.

And I could hear my Daddy,
poor listener that I am.

He could ask questions to guide you.

He knew I would be alone
as he lived in that aloneness
past the comfort of people.

Still, he could kiss a stranger,
help students who came
from unknown places,
as he understood
and was one.

He could,
just past dusk,
put up a for sale sign
on our jerk neighbor’s lawn.

Wherever there were words
he read,
seeing a way in them.
Chose them like a lover.
Could hear every error
of grammar, syntax,
and intent.

He loved to ask
what if, what if,
the crazy possibility of
dignity for everyone.

My Daddy’s poetry was
mostly hidden but he
got drunk with Robert Frost
one night and held his own.

He held his own
and I, even I, and
Gerald, Nella, Galen
were his own.

My Daddy, when
long in the tooth,
said death was just
another place
to rest
and then he went
that somewhere
in his sleep.
His own bed.
His own house.
My care taking Mom
phoning me about his death
with little emotion.

He could never be led
though she would lead him.

She was too early for him,
he was too late for her,
but still they laughed together
so often
and my Mother
incessantly analyzed
our every thought
and action,
pushing her life
through ours,
strapping the backpack
of her dreams on us.

My Daddy was an innocent
gardener of life.

Now, two years hence,
the bean and tomato plants
jump toward the light
from insignificant seeds
and my Daddy
oh my dearest Daddy
is in those seeds
and I will always
plant his memory
back into the green garden
of the living.