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Blake Leland

Some Poems

By Blake Leland

To hear Blake Leland read his poems, please click on the player below each title.

for Leslie

Because she said yes I no longer wake in the night
rising up out of dreamdeeps, breaching surfaces of sleep,
tossing blankets off to find myself afloat,
alone on the bed, listening to the creak and shuffle
of an empty house adjusting itself to the weather;
I don't roll myself upright, fumble into slippers,
pull on the bathrobe, feel for the lighter,
the cigarettes, the glasses, then slide out the back door
looking for stars like the hosts of stars night wind
shook loose from the oaks when I was a boy
knowing I'll find only a pale smattering of them
to stare down at me while I fart and smoke
and find myself, like Keats (yes, tell yourself:
"like Keats"), half in love with easeful death and,
listening for a nightingale, hear instead
an airplane and a barking dog—easeful death indeed; O
go smoke another cigarette…

But she said yes, and I have been
where I could see the Milky Way again. 

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Hunters in the Snow, 1565


It’s been cold a while now—

The trees are leafless, the mill pond 

Frozen over.

Last night it snowed.

Today black branches

And rooftops

Still hold the snow

That comes up only

To the hunters’ ankles.

A mixed pack of slim or long-eared hounds

Follows them home.

Hunters and dogs move

Over the hill’s crest,

Heads bent, tired,

Their eyes on the blank ground.

They don’t see the valley

Spread below them—ice and sky both

The same green,

Those steep, improbable mountains,


Glad that they have nothing else

To do but play.

They don’t see the birds

Perched above them,

Or the odd, long-tailed bird

That has launched itself

Into the chill air

Of the painter’s eye,

Gathering together

High and low, near

And far

In a weightless moment

Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656


They look to themselves in that large glass
As they might look to the King and the Queen.

(later called Las Meninas)

The artist, left-handed, holds his brush
In his right hand.  The Infanta,
Three years later, parts her hair
The other way.  
                           Who will see themselves
As they are seen—distant, hazy,
Not quite there?  
                           Mother, Father:
The King and Queen.

Paul Cézanne, The Large Bathers, 1900-05, The Barnes Foundation.


There’s a basket of big peaches and half a melon on the grass.

In the foreground, asleep, a purplish dog, 

Its snout tucked under a white paw. Of the hefty

Demoiselles at their picnic and skinny-dip

One is surely called Diane.

To our left a monumental grotesque 

Wraps herself in towering clouds.  To our right 

A figure suspiciously slim-hipped and barrel-chested, 

With rather a dark mustache, listens, 

Leaning up against a tree whose leafless branches

(if we squint a bit) seem to sprout 

Like antlers from the half-turned head.


The green plastic flowerpot

  that we left out on the deck all winter

has got, this spring, a half-dozen

  small sunflowers rising up out of it.

They’re not spectacular: small (as I’ve said)

  and spindly, and three of them

can’t stand straight.  They don’t

  measure up to the other flowers—the new 

geraniums, petunias, lantanas,

  the hibiscus, and walking iris.

But they weren’t store-bought,

  and we didn’t plant them there;

that’s something the birds did,

  while they were doing something else.


This summer 

     what came up from the pots

on the deck out back 

     was pokeweed

mostly:  for seed

     Leslie scatters to the birds,

a return, 

     crimson stemmed

     with staining berries—


I made with them

     a purple ink 

to write this with.

Blake Leland has taught in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication since 1988. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Epoch, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, Commonweal, Maryland Poetry Review and other venues.