MN poetry: Bill Holm’s “Heavenly Length”

BILL HOLM was born to Icelandic immigrants on a farm north of Minneota, Minnesota in 1943. A long-time resident of Minneota, Holm lived with his wife Marcie and taught at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall from 1980 until he retired in 2007. He traveled widely, to Iceland on a Fulbright in 1979, and more recently to his summer home in Hofsos; and to China, where he taught on an academic exchange program in 1986 and again in 1992. The recipient of the 2008 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award, Holm is the author of several books of essays and poetry including, most recently, The Windows of Brimnes. Known both regionally and nationally as a humorist, writer, and prairie radical, Bill Holm passed away on February 26, 2009.

Heavenly Length

Schubert does go on, doesn’t he?

Don’t you find him a bit much?

How much wine is enough

to wash down the bread?

Is there enough water to cover

the barges under Lake Superior?

Does the sun put out too much light?

Are there enough words

in the dictionary yet?

Too many teeth in the whale’s jaw?

How many beautiful women

is too many? Will the men find them?

How much Schubert is too much?

Is it far from your left ear

to the top of the Greenland ice?

How many breaths do you intend

to breathe before you die?

Do you want these questions answered?

Someone is singing a long song.

Careful! It’s getting inside.

– “Heavenly Length” by Bill Holm, as it appears in his collection “The Chain Letter of the Soul” published by Milkweed Editions. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

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