There/Here / Jack J.B. Hutchens



poems of Journey and Home by

Jack J. B. Hutchens

ISBN: 978-1-59948-809-7, 40 pages, $12 (+ shipping)

Release Date: July 7, 2020


Jack J. B. Hutchens was born and raised among the Flint Hills of Kansas. He attended Emporia State University where he studied poetry under Phil Heldrich and Christopher Howell. After graduation, he lived in Poland for several years, finding a new home there. When he returned, he completed his PhD in Slavic Literatures at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He now teaches Polish literature at Loyola University Chicago, and lives in Champaign with his wife Amanda, their daughter Harriet, and their two dogs, Leslie Knope and Woodie Guthrie.

In There/Here, Poems of Journey and Home, history looms in the cobblestones of Central Europe, people crowd somnolent trains vanishing past landscapes of field and factory, cultural disorientation and connection in provincial Poland abound, and a closed world opens up. To be a there, though, requires a here, which Hutchens extends to a broader personal journey back to the spare landscapes, endless highways, and attachment to the land that roots him in the American Midwest. ~ John Merchant, Ph.D.

First Night in Radom, Poland


From depths of unknown names beneath green water
I come armed with chalky pencils and leafless notebooks
to write the darkness of small numbers
onto murky bathroom stalls that rot with memories
of past loves built into mighty blue houses.

In the seconds our eyes turn from the obvious
I try to grab hold of meaning by the throat,
to give it a shake, but snatch only the air.

We age clumsily in the small moments of grey afternoons,
the tax collector’s audits breaking thick callous
on overworked backs in a dark corner of absent thought.

But I have come serious in my quest for journey.
I have left my country, womblike and warm, and
now the night fills my mouth.
I have taken the blood red sun,
and set it in different skies.



Why the Moths


if your hands covered my eyes
and the day were little less a day
of stained dishes beneath
the dark waters of my sink
if the same brown dry leaves
carried your secrets and my secrets
into the same darkened sky
if my body stretched itself out
over these hard sidewalks
and the wind rubbed my skin into the stone
when the day becomes full
of old names and dust, and glorious dark women
who lean out balconies into summer evenings
where my many knives have become blunted
against the grains of faulty whetstones
if I told you about the rats and cockroaches I’ve seen
trying to live their moments as much as I
then I would know why the moths
always surrender to the harsh yellow secret
of the light beneath my lampshade
and become lost in the blind flutter of paper wings



This City My Poem

for Poznań


in the neon of crowded bars
we sit on hard curbstones and drink
and laugh as old drunk women
try to stand on their heads

men in doorways argue over prices
of bread and cheese and qualities
of good beer and vodka

laughter echoes down cobbled wet alleys
and seeps like a secret into cold air
in this city that has become a poem for me

pigeons are nesting in the old town square
where tomorrow men in overalls will sweep them
from their ancient roosts before winter

in this city my poem will grow
long in the dark stretches of dusk
and carry itself into scented rafters
above the soft glow of wet lampposts


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