Project Description

His Job Is Honest and Simple

His job is honest and simple: keeping
the forest tidy. He replaces,
after repairing, the nests
on their branches, he points every pine needle north,
polishes the owl’s stained perch,
feather-dusts the entrance
to the weasel’s burrow, soft-brushes
each chipmunk (the chinchilla
of the forest banal), buffs antlers, gives
sympathy to ragweed, tries to convince—
like a paternal and inept psychiatrist—
the lowly garter snake to think
of himself, as he parts the grass,
as an actor parting the stage curtain
to wild applause, arranges, in the clearing,
the great beams of light… This is his job: a day’s,
a week’s, a life’s calm, continuous,
low-paying devotion. At dawn
he makes a few sandwiches and goes
to work. I love this, he thinks as he passes
the wild watercress—its green as stunning
as surviving a plane crash—in the small,
inaccessible swamp.

Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1946 to working class parents. He attended Emerson College and the University of Iowa. He began publishing haunted, ironic poems that owed much to the Neo-surrealist movement in the 1970s. Critically lauded from his first book Memory’s Handgrenade (1972), Lux’s poetry gradually evolved toward a more direct treatment of immediately available, though no less strange, human experience. Often using ironic or sardonic speakers, startlingly apt imagery, careful rhythms, and reaching into history for subject matter, Lux created a body of work that is at once simple and complex, wildly imaginative and totally relevant. In an interview with Cerise Press, Lux stated: “There’s plenty of room for strangeness, mystery, originality, wildness, etc. in poems that also invite the reader into the human and alive center about which the poem circles.” Known for pairing humor with sharp existentialism, Lux commented in the Los Angeles Times, “I like to make the reader laugh—and then steal that laugh, right out of the throat. Because I think life is like that, tragedy right alongside humor.” He died in 2017.

—Poem from Half Promised Land, Houghton Mifflin, 1986