Representative Poems by John Perrault

Some Recently Published:

Poem | St. Joseph's Cemetery

ByJohn Perrault

Commonweal Magazine, June 21, 2017


As the limbs bend
with the weight of the leaves
sodden with rain

I am reminded
how rooted I am
to the ground of my being—

to the saturated moss
with its little streams
seeping into the earth,

to the dirt and mud
caking the soles of my boots,
to the sound of the wind.

I am reminded
as I touch, re-touch
this lichen-covered stone

how deep down I am growing,
inch by cellular inch
into my father’s bones.

Published in the July 7, 2017 issue: 

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John Perrault is the author of The Ballad of Louis Wagner (Peter Randall Publisher), Here Comes the Old Man Now (Oyster River Press), and Jefferson’s Dream (Hobblebush Books). His poems have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, Blue Unicorn, Orbis, and elsewhere. He was Portsmouth, NH, Poet Laureate 2003–

Fathers and Sons


At the dinner table,

 When manly disagreements loomed

 And basic values were at stake,

 His mother would reach with both hands

 To smooth the tablecloth

 And calm the situation.

His father wasn’t able

To appreciate the move. Doom

Would settle on his brow—he’d make

A vow to take the boy in hand,

Show him who’s boss—and the cost

Of talking back to reason.


The boy was capable

Of what boys do. He’d flee the room,

Run out to the barn, throw the rakes

And tools around—and with both hands,

Shinny the pole to the loft.

Years later, he'd come down.

--First Published in Blue Unicorn



                          Don't Tell


(I'm nobody!  Who are you?  --Emily Dickinson)

Not on Facebook?

Me neither.

Two of us then.

Better--the reverse:

A couple of ones.


Buzz.  Blather.


The Belle of Amherst

Twittering at dawn.




Deer sidle into the yard at midnight

For the blackened acorns under the snow--

They watch them from the kitchen window:

Last winter two, maybe three; this year, eight.

Seven doe, a buck, working a good foot

Down to scratch a living--nosing dead leaves,

Frozen grass, small chunks of brittle moss,

For what they have to offer:  bitter fruit.

They sit in the dark with only the lamp

Across the road for light:  the buck circles,

Stakes claim to a patch up by the fence--

A doe approches, backs off with a limp.

Neither stirs, says a word, when the last deer

Moves on.  When dawn defaults to a gray sky

Marbled with gold.  When the clock strikes eight,

And the Sheriff arrives with the papers.

--New Verse News


--from Here Comes the Old Man Now


Love comes wrapped in three words

ribboned by the lips;

best to open carefully,

it's such a fragile gift.


Gently part the syllables,

lift them to the light;

once they're whispered, they can break

your heart--so hold on tight.


Ashes to Ashes
after an AP photo of lower Manhattan , Sept. 11, 2001

Ash blankets the old graves
in Trinity churchyard.

How hard it is for us to see
given the grain of the film,
given the smoke clouding the lens.

We stumble into the picture
squinting through dust,
holding our breath

straining to focus
on the stones
that have just this second
caught the camera's eye

gritty markers
sticking out of the rubble,
holding their ground
covered with loess.

We lean close
clutching the page
fixing our eyes
on each half-buried plot,
engraving each slab in our minds

even as the photographer
risks our lives

even as the temples
come crashing down around us.


I Like It

I like it
when the weather thickens
wetting us with love--

when the mourning doves
nuzzle on the wire
that beads above the road
and the squirrels fidget
on the black bark of the pines.

We knew setting out
that it was about to rain
but left behind our coats
our hats--

we knew that we'd get soaked
and so we have
and now it's getting dark.

I like your hair like that.


Found Art


              comes to the surface

                                        hard as stone

The bone

              the ground yields

                                        to a thousand rains.



--from The Ballad of Louis Wagner and other New England Stories in Verse

All Souls Eve

As the mist lifts from the cut swale
the deer slip out of the trees

dropping their shadows to the meadow floor
baring themselves to the moon--

slowly they turn in the pale light
moving in groups of twos, of threes

testing the earth with their silver hooves
their eyes, coming toward us.


Charter's beans are poking through the dirt
right on schedule,
six more weeks and on the plate.

Meanwhile, he'll marinate
them with a squirt
of water, pinch of thumb, occasional

shot of spit: "You don't want to rush
them up the stick
before they get a grip on the ground,"

he likes to say--" a good round
bean's ready to pick
when it's ready. Little nudge but don't push."