The Man Himself / Al Nyhart


The Man Himself

poems by

Al Nyhart

ISBN: 978-1-59948-779-3, 84 pages, $14 (+ shipping)

Release Date: November 19, 2019


Al Nyhart received an MFA from the University of Montana and has been a painting contractor for over 40 years. His poetry has appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Big Sky Journal, Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing, Exquisite Corpse, Great River Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Whiskey Island, Puerto del Sol, William and Mary Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Laurel Review and elsewhere. He lives with his wife Cheryl in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

The edges of Al Nyhart’s work cut and scrape against the lining of the heart, with poems that mark the behaviors of “the only animal who refuses to be what he is.” All the while, and with gorgeous clarity and tenderness, the work arrows toward freedom. Though they have traveled great distances, the poems land with impeccable timing and musical control. Here you will find, in Nyhart’s words, “the way back as becoming.” ~David Keplinger, author of Another City


Al Nyhart loves the world in all its savage splendor. Brutality and beauty co-exist in these stubborn-hearted poems spoken by and for a chorus of voices, all of them, in the poet’s own words, “waiting for reality to open.” ~Colleen Morton Busch, author of Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire


A powerful restlessness propels Al Nyhart’s debut; “we move quickly as bodies must in war” he explains, leading us through time and history, through the Midwest, Vietnam, San Francisco, and finally Montana, this poet most at home “where the wind lives.” A stunning portrait, The Man Himself remains on the edge: of “the lost highway” or “a continent/where the blue whales rise & fall,” of breakdown or breakthrough, self-destruction or salvation, tears or tenderness. ~Jennifer Richter, author of No Acute Distress


But let your speech be
Yes, yes; No, no; and
whatever is beyond these
comes from the evil one
Matthew 5:37


Nothing to do,
little to say,
watching the dull bit
sink deeper into the hole.

We could be asleep
for all we know,
never awakening
to find we’ve come this far
to make our connection,
something more
to bury in the earth.

But talk is cheap
& silence is priceless
& no one sees the snake
sunning itself on top
of the shale rock
until the driller shouts
& with his steel toe boot
kicks it out among us.

I know what to say
or not say
when he splashes
the last of the gasoline
over its ancient form—

& we wait
as the world waits
for this fire, so silent,
so affirming.



Veterans Hospital, Tucson 1992


The yellow mountains
turn their backs on us,
confident we won’t escape.

Why should we?
Inside this hospital
we’re part of a collection,

not as rare
as you might think,
but extraordinary nonetheless

as we sing & dance & introduce ourselves
to the new machine
entering our room.

If you listen closely
you can hear
our collective love call

all the way down the hallway
where the new orderly
sweeps us aside

as he makes his way
to the lunchroom
where another man

waits to hear
how Jim Leathrow shit himself
last night, then began

to name all the girls in Paris
who leaned from their balconies
to wave at him.



Admin Man, Quang Nam Province 1969


His name was Delgado
& you can touch it
on black granite.

New in country,
he should have been smarter
than the kids calling him out
past the battalion gate
to sell him their dope,
maybe their sisters,
he ran so blindly
for their favors.

But as he approached
their secret circle,
they laughed
& ran away from him,
far from earth’s muffled punch
delivering one small, steel sliver.

At Graves Registration,
the corpsman had to point—
There, he said. See, right there,
where the hole had closed
cleanly over his heart.

Jim Beam & water
& four hours on the condolence letter.
It had to be neat.
It had to explain.
It had to comfort
& be proud of him.
It had to lie
& there could be no mistakes.


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