Truant Pastures

The Complete Poems of Harry C. Staley

By Harry C. Staley
Introduction by George Drew

Subjects: Poetry
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438438344, 150 pages, September 2011

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Table of contents

Introduction I
Judith E. Johnson
Chalk It
Introduction II: The Pesky Art of Harry C. Staley
George Drew
Part I: Early Times

The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain: Charles McCaffery (b. 1920 d. 1987)
Preliminary Report From Dr. Peters, Geo-therapist
Penmanship (1931, 1984)
Argument from Design
Nocturnes (from early films)
1. Dog-fight
2. Autopsy
3. Double-Feature
4. All Quiet on the Western Front
Services (1929)
Biology One (1934, 1957)
Take Us In Mister?
Asymptote (1945)
Le Bourget
Part II: Therapy (1970–1974)

Dark Cubes
Morning Song
About the Aeneid
Mother Behold Thy Son
Early Gothic
Tidings (Christmas 1930s, 1973)
Ex-Capt. McCaffery
Fr. Charles Visits Athens
Voltages and a Fading Coal
Part III: Last Years and Nursing Home
Final Diagnosis
Fish, Two Grown-ups, Christ (1975)
The Unknown General
Parakeet and Pilot (1979)
Late Winters
1. This Cold
2. That Year's Moon
In the Nursing-Home
1. The Senile General in the Garden
2. The Senile General Contemplates a Snail
3. The Senile General Remembers High School
4. McCaffery's Solitaire (Nurse's notes)
5. Transfusions
6. McCaffery's Bardo
7. McCaffery's Karma
The Final Flight
All One Breath
Thomas Kelly
Fourth Commandment
Early Mission
Beyond Victory
First Will and Testament
Tom Kelly's Journal: Two Kills
Entreaty ['45]
Nostalgia Bar
Professor Kelly
A Letter from Tom Kelly, Sr.
The Rat
Kelly and Some Graves
Obese as Buddha
Interrogating the Ph. D.-Proposal
About Lower Case
Tom Kelly Mimics R-b-rts-n D-v---s
Construing Aliquis
Never Say Dido
Rest Energy and the Doe
About His Grandson
A Sermon Kelly Never Heard
Waiting for Beckett
Waking towards the Last December
Elegy for Thomas Kelly
Cain and Other Relatives
I Slew Abel
Two Meals
Cute Kelly's Semi-final
Dennis (Chips) Kelly on Pension
Uncle Gus Kelly
1. Spring 1938
2. Nuncs
Uncle Orville and Beatrice
Liturgy: Father, Fowl, and Daughter
Principal Parts: Orville Ely
About Beatrice
1. Beatrice Remembers Her Mother
2. Beatrice Trip
3. Beatrice: Feast of the Epiphany 1948
4. Beatrice: Essence & Accident
5. Beatrice in Surgery
6. Hic Jacet Beatrice
New Poems
Sister Kelly
Hoc Est Corpus
The Karma of Sgt. Bruce's Grandmother (1939) Sgt. Bruce: Born-again
Clairvoyance (birthday, 1985)

Poems that ponder the conundrums of existence and religious faith in wartime.



I try to hold my sleep against the dawn

I sleep against the outside light where crows
(nuns and Sergeants priests and colonels)
conspire in the brightening yard
calling me from play calling me from flight
back through the pillow calling me from flight
beyond Saigon,beyond Hanoi, and Seoul
calling me from flight
I fly high beyond the call
cursing God for every shattered wall

I sleep against the clarifying day against a plebiscite
of murdered selves forgotten relatives and mean
authorities bleeding friends parents and parishioners
conspiring with a squad of crows
to call me back again to call me down
to call me back to call and call and call

"There is nothing uncertain about the art of Harry Staley. Technically, his work is masterful. Yet technique, no matter how superb, is not enough. Ultimately, it is vision and commitment to it that separates pretenders from legitimate heirs. If this volume of collected poems is daunting in its iconography, its historicity, and its Joycean wordplay, its rewards for the persistent reader are clear: a deep compassion heightened into grace through the powerful medium of a pesky art called poetry. " — From the Introduction, "The Pesky Art of Harry Staley," by George Drew

"The portrait of the speaker in the majority of these poems is one of a man conflicted in his religious faith, in his faith in his fellow human community, in the wars that religion has persuaded his fellow humans to take part in, and which he is not only witness to but a participant in—although in an ironic fashion that plagues him. These poems subtly and quietly promote a way of seeing and participating in the world. Offered in the context of Roman Catholicism and war, Staley demonstrates an understanding that is deeply spiritual, yet does not yield to easy, forgiving answers. His poems do not obfuscate or push the reader away through elliptical flurries of thought or unfamiliar—although the language-play is a real pleasure, not only sending us into flights of linguistic fancy but ruminative space for pondering the conundrums of existence in wartime. " — Todd Davis

Harry C. Staley is a noted Joyce scholar and Professor Emeritus of English at the University at Albany–SUNY, where he taught from 1956 until his retirement in 1993. His poems have been published in Groundswell, The Snail's Pace Review, Psycho-poetry, Kalamazoo Review, The Little Magazine, The Pennsylvania Literary Review, The Arizona Quarterly, and Voices. His previous books of poetry include The Lives of a Shell-Shocked Chaplain, a narrative in poetry that follows the life of Charles J. McCaffery from his birth in 1920 to his death in a nursing home in 1987, and All One Breath: Selected Poems, a series of autobiographical poems that draw from his war experiences.