Richard Schiffman


Triumph of the Grasses

The grasses weave on stilted stalks,
their manes of green-gold grain upthrust
from last years matted straw and tufts,
each tasseled head a bobbing brush,
a runic glyph that waving scries
its own square inch of blackboard sky.

The grasses pop like Jack from box,
with Jill they spill down hills with ease.
They ride out rains on jouncing knees,
they tongue the dirt, they kiss the breeze.
Their limbs are chaff, their dreams are air,
these straw men die, they do not care.

They rise again from prairie seas,
and plunge their roots, just as they please.
To stay the reaper from his deed,
they sway like kelp, they scatter seed
evading with their ebb and flow
what thought can chart, and mower mow.


I am, says the mystic
who is, says the skeptic,
we are, says the lover,
not me, says the loser,
I wish, says the virgin,
I’ll pass, says the monk.
just do it, says the hunk,
me too, says the flirt,
down and dirty, says the dirt,
that’s rude, says the prude,
be fruitful, says God.

Whistle Envy

When the whistle seller passes
like a snake through the grass
on the A train halfway to Borough Hall,
you won’t have time to decide how
you would have used one. Still, you’ll regret
for the rest of the trip not shelling out a buck
for something so shrill and unambiguous—
a whistle that sings only one song,
and always perfectly.

Richard Schiffman is an environmental reporter, poet, and author of two biographies, based in New York City. His poems have appeared on the BBC and on NPR as well as in Alaska Quarterly, New Ohio Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, Writer’s Almanac, American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and other publications. His first poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published in 2017 by Salmon Poetry.