The Constellation of Extinct Stars
Page Count: 76
Publication Date: Thursday, March 10, 2016
Cover Artwork: “Constellation” by David Carmack Lewis
About this Book
In this book, Scot Siegel’s poems have an ambidextrous quality, ready to pivot deftly from history to imagined history, from biography to prophecy. His is a voice rinsed clear by desert winds, ready to enter any story and make it first person – for the writer, for the reader. He can claim at one point “no pretense…no history, no trajectory...,” and yet his imagination honors history, invents history, and makes history matter, gives it important work to do. You will be disoriented from accustomed ways of thinking, and gain new ways of being: “I want to go down in history and bring back a future worth remembering.” These poems will convey you to resonant places in your new life.
With grace, skill, and compassion, Scot Siegel’s poems create a specificity of time and place that rises above the specific. Whether he writes of a young school teacher back in 1928 Summer Lake or a wolf traveling unseen across all of present-day Oregon, the poet guides us to those sad and beautiful places deep in the human heart.
Scot Siegel has inherited the tradition of William Stafford so deeply and profoundly he has remade it afresh. From strangers to friends, he gathers the proofs of how we think we understand our lives and deeply observes the world’s ecologies of landscape and love. Here are poems that express a vibrational wonder for the aromas and textures of the days and nights we pass through. And just as Scot Siegel praises the good bones of a good home, we too admire the good bones of the good poetry he offers us, over and again, as a deeply clarifying solace.
Scot Siegel’s poetry very much reminds me of the poetry of Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage. This is to say that his poetry is precise, elliptical, vernacular, dramatic, anchored in narrative and—most important of all!—understandable to readers such as myself who like to understand what they are reading rather than be intimidated by obscurity.
Scot Siegel is the author of three full-length books and two chapbooks of poetry, including Thousands Flee California Wildflowers (Salmon Poetry, 2012). He has been awarded fellowship-residencies with Playa at Summer Lake and has received awards and commendations from Nimrod International, Aesthetica (UK), the Oregon State Library, and the Oregon Poetry Association. Siegel lives in Oregon where he works as a town planner. More information is available at www.scotsiegel.com.
Read a sample from this book
No Valentine. Though Windy took me
to the Grange last night. Mrs Foster
frowns when that cowboy whistles.
Lucky for me, all the girls like to dance.
Wind from the northwest, cold and thick.
Snow by dusk. Storms approach like flocks
of swords. Summer Lake, an open wound.
The wind never lets up.
Last night, I tossed and turned. Tried
not to touch myself when the sleet came.
But June, ranch hand from Silver Lake,
fine red hair and gentle hands…
She found me in a sweat, entered my shack
through a trapdoor to a feverish dream.
I want a home with good bones, a bungalow
from the 1920s with mahogany columns and
beaded wainscoting in the parlor.
I want maple floors well worn from years of
children’s slippers, lath plaster, and an attic
where boys hid airline liquor and pinups.
I want a home with catacombs for walls,
where the man of the house once stashed
his mistress’s many perfumed letters.
I want an oak front door with leaded glass
transom, and a warped front porch, which
when walked across feels like sailing drunk.
I want hand-hewn siding and a porch swing
with braided ropes that creak to the cadence
of my daydreams. I’d swing there for hours,
Sipping bourbon, spitting tobacco, squinting
across the way toward the neighbor lady’s
upstairs bedroom window—
Then I’d raise my glass, the sun sinking
through it, and watch the last of the day
slowly undress those whitewashed spindles—
The afterglow of history gently revealed
on the many fine weather-worn bones
of my good home.
Full Lunar Eclipse, 1928
Windy left without a wink. His truck snaked north
along the stage route, left pumice stains, red plumes
on the bruised horizon. Hell-bent for a girl in Bend
whose father owns a mill, June says…
I scrub the griddle with Borax and gravel, so hard
my knuckles bleed. Beyond this hovel, dust devils
drill the onion flats, and the last of the geese
lift off from what’s left of Summer Lake.
Crazy-cracks riddle the playa. A drought they say.
All the women, but the sharecroppers’ daughters,
and a few teachers who’ve found better jobs,
will be wives by July. What am I going to do?
June leans forward, touches my wrist, says,
Follow your heart.