BOOK: Pitch


Todd's second poetry collection from W. W. Norton & Company, Pitch, was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and won the Midwest Bookseller's Choice Award, among other honors.



There is a rich physicality in all of Todd Boss’s poems, a reverent gusto for representing the tactile aspects of human life. His poems are about matter in motion… The poems in Pitch are never pretentious but always acrobatic, sensuous, technically inventive,

muscular, and fun.

Tony Hoagland



The collection opens with these poems, which lay out a spiritual context for the rest of the book, by drawing from Todd's agricultural upbringing:



It Is Enough to Enter


the templar

halls of museums, for


example, or

the chambers of churches,


and admire

no more than the beauty


there, or

remember the graveness


of stone, or

whatever. You don’t


have to do any

better. You don’t have to


understand

the liturgy or know history


to feel holy

in a gallery or presbytery.


It is enough

to have come just so far.


You need

not be opened any more


than does

a door, standing ajar.



The God of Our Farm Had Blades


and a rudder. All our acres

begged its pardon. Merest

breezes made its rusty flower

turn and whine and shudder.


Its wooden arm a weathered

stump, the god of our farm

no longer pumped the well

that once it lorded power over.


It belonged to another order.

On silent nights in summer, my windows open, many times

its vocal powers found me deep


in dreams and hauled me up.

Unearthly alarm! what ache!

How the vane would groan,

the rotor churn, and with what


moan when a good gust came!

It scared me to the bone, as if

some inner tower of my own,

for an unknown water, yearned.



Broke


We broke horses, broke

calves of their mothers’

milk, broke our hands

herding heifers, broke

axes and hammers right

off their hafts, broke

bread with thanks, broke

bank accounts, broke our

backs over banks of taters

and beets, broke beets

from their greens, broke

peas from their pods,

broke the silence of night

with a little something

spoke, broke necks of mice

that got in our traps, broke

the ice in the tank so the

stock could drink, broke

chickens with a twist

of fists, broke their yolks

into breakfasts, broke wide

our wallets for the offering

plate, broke the stitching

on our Bibles’ spines, broke

harsh north winds with lines

of pines, and then, when

all was said and done, we

broke the bonds of earthly

toil when by our work we’d

been broke down, and,

over the soil that mended

where we lay, there ended

one, then broke another day.



Were I to Wring a Rag


—no matter how much

muscle I might have

mustered—my mother

was like to come along

behind me, reach around

me to take it up again

from where I’d left it,

lift it back into my line

of vision and in one

practiced motion from

that strangle in her bare

hands and thin air work

a second miraculous

stream of silver dishwash

into the day’s last gleam…



Apple Slices


—eaten right

off the jackknife in

moons, half moons,

quarter moons and

crescents—

still

summon common

summer afternoons

I spent as my dad’s

jobsite grunt, framing

future neighbors’

houses out of 2x4s

and 4x6s,

and our

brief and silent pick-

up tailgate lunch-

box lunch breaks

of link sausage,

longhorn cheddar,

larder pickles, cold

leftover roast-beef-

and-butter sandwiches

wrapped in paper,

a couple of pippins

from the Fall Crick

Pick-n-Save, and—

flavored of tin from

the lip of the cup

of a dented thermos

passed between us—

a hard-earned share

of still-chill well

water…

Now

so many waned and

waxed moons later,

another well-paid,

well-fed, college-

bred paper-pusher, I

wonder that I’ve never

labored harder, nor

eaten better.



Pitch was inspired by a true story: The time my father lost the family piano off the back of his pickup truck near our Wisconsin farm when I was 12. The resulting poem, "Overtures on an Overturned Piano," is one of my favorite things to read to a crowd. My poems often tell stories, and utilize humor and surprise. Where would we be without stories, humor, or surprise?

Todd is grateful to the following for support of his work: Forecast Public Art, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council of/and The Minnesota State Arts Board, The National Endowment for the Arts, The San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Warhol Foundation, as well as individual commissions and supporters on Patreon

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