Richard Luftig

Prospero’s Book

It possessed all

his magic to keep

a daughter close.


But one cannot hold

the moon forever

or its rhythms still


and even a sorcerer

must yield to such

first, inevitable facts.


Here, I give you,

the best part of my life,

he told Ferdinand


and yield now to a place

where every third thought

shall be my grave,


and then drowned

his book so deep

in the fathoms


retiring all

he knew to

the alchemy of love.



The wooden thermometer in the Kiwanis Park

reports that they’ve reached eighty percent

toward building the new hospital wing,

and the Dairy Queen sign advertising half off

an Artic Rush also is pleased to announce

that Salvation is a Gift from Our Lord.


Along the State Route that cuts through the heart

of town, each weathered, gray-slate, clapboard house

has a sofa on the front porch, a rusted tree swing

or big, brown beater of a Pontiac parked on

a washboard-dirt drive. But the side gardens,

each full as the old person’s lap who tend them,


are swelling with costume-jewelry sunflowers,

peonies, tomatoes, snap beans, pattypan squash

that their owners have placed in a crate along the curb

along with an empty Maxwell House can where the passerby

might pay on the honor system right before he’s hit with

the hundred buck fine for doing thirty in a twenty zone.


A Box of Old Letters


Found in the attic after I bought the place,

the address on the front always the same.

But the postmarks an atlas heading west,

always west down the Ohio to Cairo

then up the Mississippi to St Louis.

Each day took him farther and further


from her touch, through towns

with populations smaller than their area,

tree lines thinned then vanished, land bleached

like the bones of cattle lining the trail.

Places where quarter-sections were left

for dead, land, a disaster never more


than one drought away. And he pleading

for a letter, some word to expel the fears

of losing her that grew with each passing

mile, enclosing pressed flowers:

hawthorns, pieces of sunflowers—

the color, he said of her hair—


columbines, then poppies when he crossed

the Sierras into California, he looking

for the gold that would bring her

to him and we never learning

if he ever possessed a box

to save on his side of the world.


Richard Luftig is a former professor of educational psychology and special education at Miami University in Ohio now residing in Pomona, CA; a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semi-finalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award; poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United States and internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong and India.