From Bucolics by Maurice Manning

Photograph by Tsuneaki Hiramatsu


[. . .] you’ve got yourself
a common name but a name I can’t
forget a name like honey Boss
you pour it in my ear you pour
it in my mouth you make me say
it Boss your name it’s like a bird
that’s come to roost upon my lips
no matter what it will not stir
it sings a single note sometimes
it’s just a whisper others it’s
a shout [. . .]



is that you Boss is that
you hooting in the hollow
are you a night bird Boss
is that your face behind
the moon is that your hand
cupped to the cricket’s ear
do you tell the cricket how
to sing do you say that’s it
now softer softer now
you little bug do you
pour moonlight on the river
do you say river let
this silver ride on you
you’re up to something Boss
you’re like a treetop there
against the sky a wave
you’re like a neighbor Boss
is your favorite game a game
of peep-eye Boss are you
as sweet as you can be
you cutie-pie I can’t
keep track of you Boss you’re just
too many things at once
you’re like a lullaby 
that never ends a breath
that makes the moment last
again again again



[. . .] that’s what
I do when I can’t sleep a wink I think
about you Boss I wonder all those yellow
fireflies even though they never make
a peep do they still call you Boss

Excerpts from Bucolics: Poems by Maurice Manning (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007), used by permission of the author. A new twist on the traditional genre of pastoral poetry, this Pulitzer Prize–nominated collection comprises seventy-eight unpunctuated, untitled poems about the natural world, all addressed to a higher power called “Boss.”

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