Robert Champ lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC. He holds degrees in English from Loyola University (Chicago) and the University of Maryland College Park. He was, for many years, an award-winning teacher of online English courses. In addition, he has worked as an editor and proofreader for various educational and cultural enterprises. He has published poetry in a variety of journals and one of his poems was recently a runner-up in the annual poetry prize given by The Atlanta Review. He has published three books of poetry: Blue Denim Days, The Little Wonders of the Earth and My Mourning Turned to Laughter.
Middle Island Press Chapbooks by Robert Champ:
Over the course of 24 poems, Nova Scotia Road tells the story of the murder of a young woman and how the tragedy affects her friends, neighbors and, eventually, people far removed from her. Each poem is told in the voice of a different person, who reflects on his or her own feelings about the event and wonders what–and who–lay behind the savage slaying. Forty-nine pages.
(A browse upon Pages 7 and 11…)
“Vern Masters, Farmhand”
I was the one who found her.
The first frost
Of the season surrounded her as snow
Surrounds a lake. The winter birds,
Knowing something was wrong, cawed
In the quiet Wood on either side.
She looked so natural, her body lying
Straight, her arms stretched out
As if in longing.
Yet in that place she alone was unnatural.
Her body seemed to say, “I don’t belong here;
Take me home, please.” I couldn’t touch her.
Instead I ran to tell the others
Who were searching along the north ridge.
They followed me back, running,
Panting behind me—all those thick work-boots
Thumping the white ground, all those eyes
Wide open and fixed on my back.
I had never seen anything beautiful dead before
Or known the absolute silence of men
Looking down at an image of desire
Spoiled, and asking questions
No one could answer.
“That poor baby, that poor baby”:
How many times did they say it later,
As if the words were an incantation
That, spoken in the proper way,
Would cause her to rise up?
“Eddie Merit, Thompson Neighbor”
The photo we saw in the Register, two boys,
Arms draped over each other, their caps (both reading COLTS)
Pushed back on high foreheads, gave no hint
Of the coldness we were later told lived inside them.
It was easier to think of them sledding downhill
At Congor’s farm, or Hank as quarterback
Of the Cougars, the best in the school’s history,
Floating the ball out to his younger brother—the combo
That brought us to the state finals. You needed only look
At them to raise a smile. Maybe the coldness
Came later. Even then, they worked the farm
For their father who, at fifty, simply caved in,
Did nothing but putter around the machinery,
Occasionally feed the chickens: a big simpleton,
Unlike his sons, who were lively and smart.
They liked hunting birds in Guerin’s Wood. It was
The only mark against them. Now, they sit
In prison, looking into the gray sinkhole
Of dead promise. Now, the days come over them
Like hard slate. In a few years, execution.
Their inheritance confounds them. On Nova Scotia Road,
Old man Thompson has passed away, the farm
Sits useless, unworked. The bank can’t sell it.
The neighbors shake their heads—for them
The real jury is still out,
The truth stranded somewhere in the forbidding dusk.
(Nova Scotia Road is available via Amazon.com.)