Poetry: How to Take Time by Daniel Lassell

We love the mouthfeel of Daniel Lassell’s “How to Take Time,” the patience for the right word in its right place—and the courage it performs in reaching for deep wisdom off the back of a red headed woodpecker. Lassell is a composed poet, one who keeps his feet planted but his eyes looking up.



At midnight, I remember the Pileated Woodpecker
on the branch of an elm, that brilliant cap
of curry red and sable pickax.
My wife and I strolled our weary selves, two humans
at sunset, through Eagle Creek Park and saw no eagles,
but this welcome bird spanned our brains
with the same awe of a well-found planet
in the spray-painted yolk of a city.

The mud wrapped our shoes in clomps,
as if the earth wanted to claim us.
As if nothingness is a mercy
and absence is something sacred—a thought
I’d like to entertain if not for my Christian upbringing
nitpicking the back of my brain.
Perhaps it’s instinct that guides our parents
as they pass their thoughts along

like the exchange between two hands over a meal,
all of us mashed potatoes, cycling around,
named by movement until enough people
request no more, or some dessert.
Like the Pileated Woodpecker, we measure the world
and make it our home—though we do it without grace
most times, not in neat, rectangular holes.
How I wish to clamp the bark hard in my feet too,

like the woodpecker’s little palms that hold itself
in and above the leaves with such dignity for the wood.
Its wings fold over like two blankets,
like a covering of light over coal dust.
And a lifetime is like a series of blankets,
each layer peeled off and layered on again,
each tragedy and joy measured only in inches, if that.
I am guilty that I do not realize this more often,

that I wander without recognition
for how blankets are sometimes missing, especially for
the long-bearded man who reclines on a bench
with a dog tucked into his boomerang legs,
chin propped up to watch their McDonald’s cup
collect occasional nickels.
People pass through his kingdom offering boxes.
The dog eats first.



Daniel Lassell

Daniel Lassell grew up on a llama and alpaca farm in Eminence, Kentucky. His poetry has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize, and can be found in recent issues of Lunch Ticket, Rust+Moth, Sequestrum, One, and Hotel Amerika. He received his MA from Marshall University, and lives with his wife and son in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he works remotely as a marketing copywriter. Visit his website at www.daniel-lassell.com

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