john timpane

2 Poems by John Timpane


hobos frieght hopping - library of congress

Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress

Elizabeth and the Tramps
The dandelions always grew, even in 1930;
They ran the fields to the fence where all the boards had fallen,
And if, arrayed in clothes and dirt, they cut across the grass lot
The tramps could beat the watchful men who lay for them with rifles.
If they could make her back door, they could beg for dimes and nickels,
A chicken wing, or three square yards on Grandma’s floor for sleeping.
Her yeses earned her word among the sons of the Depression
Who traipsed to her in random flocks and seldom lost her mercy,
Found succor for their freight car mouths, bandages for the broken,
A shoe that almost fit a foot, and small talk if they wanted.
Night, train time, called the tramps away. A couple stayed on longer
Then struck out aimless through the dandelions that grew always.


Bach’s Great Theme


is God arising from trouble. Beginnings welcome
you; a folk song you know
or wish you knew gives way
to hurdles, threats, twinges, changes wrung
out of memory (watery light box);
you climb walls of thorns to
reach the wasteland, sun in your
eyes; valleys fill with mist, milk,
carillons; lighthouses necklace the coast; the
drunken river of song urges backward;
bass and melody leapfrog; branches whip
across your face; mainspring time relaxes.
Does the Orchestral Suite No. 3
in D Major, second movement, move, or
do you? Moving to be living,
to know, to hear, bear this
chord, those scraps of theme around
corners like spies of the spirit?
Haunts, rehaunts. New fields render alien
the childhood path. Have you been
led? Or is being here, the end, wrung,reset
remapped, equal to hearing what you already


photograph by Jessica Griffin

John Timpane is the Books and Fine Arts Editor/Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, The Rathalla Review, Per Contra, Vocabula Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010).





Coming On September 15th


Our September 15th edition will feature poetry from Dongho Cho, John Timpane, Jeremy Freedman, and Julia Wakefield.

Submissions of book reviews, commentary, essays and poetry are open at North of Oxford. Our guidelines are here: 

Night Sweat by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri


A poetry collection by Contributing Editor Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

Now available at Amazon:

What others say about Night Sweat:

Wherever Diane Sahms-Guarnieri takes you, she takes you all the way there, soul and senses rendered high-definition cameras, taking in history, loss, family, humor, and eros in a world brought alive. Night Sweat, her new book, moves among her beloved Philadelphia and environs, Old City, Christ Church, where “the present belongs and does not belong,” even the drug dealers at Frankford Terminal — then we’re in a bed of fire and fondly remembered love, then “friendship, the hinge of a calm shell,” then a flower field, with “seductive” tulips and “slightly badass” dandelions, then ancestors, relationship, descent from Lenape settlers and from the stars alike (“Stars connect us: they are lineage”). This poet is a singer, of car accident, graffiti artist, or the marriage (told in a hilarious poem) of William Carlos Williams and Flossie. After reading Night Sweat, you will live in a different world — or, rather, thanks to Diane Sahms-Guarnieri, the world you always lived in, all aching beauties laid bare.

John Timpane- Assistant Books Editor/Media Editor Writer – Philadelphia Inquirer                                                                       

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri’s Night Sweat is a moving collection of poems. In Sahms-Guarnieri’s poem “Sunset” she writes: “Everything has its own way of entering into night.” Many of her most memorable poems are intimate and unprecious portraits of people and urban landscapes and the psychic interplay of each in the other. Here people and places live inside each other and vice versa. In the poem “Delaware River” she describes the river as “a snake/ who has swallowed a mouse/ it carries it through night/ like a dark and dirty secret.” There is also much flora and fauna in the book, but Sahms-Guarnieri’s edge remains. She writes “I have come to mistrust the wisdom of trees/ their disguises.” Sahms-Guarnieri is a tough and tender poet. Her poems bridge time and memory in ways that unexpectedly reveal our present.

Thomas Devaney, poet and author of The Picture that Remains and A Series of Small Boxes.

In Night Sweat, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri explores the physical and emotional landscapes of the places and people she loves. She knows these places. She knows these people. And she writes with both the authority and humility of a poet fully engaged with these worlds.

Jim Daniels- Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English- Carnegie Mellon University

In a city that looks back, reflective as the moon, Diane Sahms-Guarnieri hangs life on the line from clothespin to clothespin to clothespin, billowing in the night breeze, a breeze that chills but does not cool.  The light Night Sweat sheds on the city is not the glare of sun but the haunting vision of moonlight that touches at once the subliminal and the sublime.  In a striking array of poetic images, reflecting together Ash Can Art and Georgia O’Keefe, haunting and dazzling at once, as moonlight illuminations provide tantalizing glimpses in a landscape revealed only to the exquisite extent that moonlight allows.

Mike Cohen
Host of Poetry Aloud and Alive
Contributing Editor, Schuylkill Valley Journal