In the lilac hour and other poems by John Muro

picture of John Muro

Robert Cording has written that the poems in John Muro’s first book, In the Lilac Hour, “move with a sure hand between closed forms (especially sonnets), invented forms, poems after writers like Keats and Frost, and free verse; and they are committed to seeing and honoring the passing of seasons, of friends and family, and to the birds and flowers that constitute the local reality of our everyday lives.  Looking closely and surely at the world around him, Muro’s descriptive abilities are everywhere apparent: the crack of a screen door shutting lingers ‘long on pneumatic air’; a pear is a ‘tilted Buddha’; swans are ‘high, heavy clouds / idly set upon the water’; cardinal flowers are ‘incendiary petal flare, the arching thrust / Of fireworks in descent.’ But the poems always widen from a series of exacting and fresh images to a wider context—the diminishing habitat of Lady Slippers or a Swainson’s Thrush running up against the glass windows of a suburban house.  These deft and heartfelt poems trace our connections and disconnections to nature, community, and family while amplifying and celebrating life. 

  In the lilac hour cover image
  Cover art by Michael Muro.

A life-long resident of Connecticut, John Muro is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford. He has also attained advanced degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. He has been an advocate for environmental stewardship and conservation throughout his career, and he has held several volunteer and executive positions in those fields. He has had a life-long passion for literature and the arts, and considers himself particularly fortunate to have worked at The Wadsworth Atheneum, the Bushnell Memorial and the Hartford Stage Company (all in Hartford) while a student. John has been recognized for his volunteer activities by the State of Connecticut, and he has also been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for his efforts in support of small businesses. John was a resident of Bolton, CT, until he recently relocated to Guilford on the Connecticut shoreline with his wife, Debra Ann. They have four children. This is his first volume of published poems.

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ISBN 978-1-943826-71-1
First Edition, 2020
106 pages

This book is available at all bookstores
including Amazon.


Copyright © 2020 by John Muro


In This Hour of Respite


In this hour of respite
Tangled in drooping dark,
Porch lights turning out,
Stars brittle-bright glint.

Frail senses wander,
Spy the flitting black
Smudge of bats; crack
Of doors that linger

Long on pneumatic air;
Pondside, the muffled plop
Of a kingfisher, perhaps,
Pitched clear

Of willow. Lavender
Scents from the gardens
Drift past; a distracted wren
Discerned in a queer

Shaft of moonlight.
Relief meant to mean
Something between
The darkness and light.

In the Lilac Hour


In the lilac hour,
The growing green season slows;
The ache to fruit and flower
Recedes. the want to grow,

For a time,
Gives way to a soft easing
And a divine
Purpling of grass and trees.

Wind is quelled,
The mellifluous sparrow,
The tumbled crunch of gravel
Underfoot, hushed; the glow

Of oriole-bright lanterns,
Displaces a moon of shook foil,
Stars in leaf-bowed branches burn
And burn; ash drifts to soil.

A damp fragrance lingers,
Grafts to tongue
And so, to ear, creak of hinge
From the garden gate.

Now, the brighter blur,
The quickening of things,
Before the ever after.





Decades apart, the mother stands,
Dutifully places the plastic instruments
Upon the tray filled with bottled lotions
And oils; drapes the time-worn blanket
From shoulder to knees and gathering strands
Of her daughter’s hair, sets in motion

The near-sensual sweep of brush and comb;
Applies the spray of topaz wash while
Avoiding the mid-day light and faces
Captured in stark, yet wistful, profile
And perhaps wonders how, years from now,
Chair-bound, she might yet recall traces

Of such kind labors, the small blue tangle
Of forget-me-nots, her daughter’s name
Or the purpose of the linen blanket
Enveloping her shrunken frame
And the distant sounds of angels
Amid those brute yet simple instruments.

A Day in April


Spring sky so clear one might see
The calm nestled deep inside the blue;
Light-footed birds drifting across
Hushed air and a pathless sea              
Slowly ebbing, birthing fewer                           
Waves. The shoreline’s pressed 

To glimmering silt. Salt-thick smell
Mingles with the drunken light
Stumbling from wave to wave;
The drop of moon, a bleached shell,
Still hews to the bluer edge of night
As it withers to windward dawdle:
Marvels at the wonder of this day
And grace unfathomable.

Rainbow Trout


The wonder is so small a stream could sustain
The thing: a stone submerged or limb fixed in
Undertow, until the slow, effortless sweep of tail
Pushed it deftly past shadow and it flared out
Towards a pool of light, the slosh and prattle
Of braided water refracting its mottled flesh –
Brittle-gold phosphorous and a bloom of pink –
Before it drifted sideways beneath foam and a tangle
Of roots as if it were prepared to wait out
The season in stellar calm; and then once
Again in liquid torpor it transformed itself –
A late leaf fallen or tinseled flutter of writhing
Weed engulfed in a blush of melt waters
As dark and dense as any dusk or drowning.


Hermit Thrush


Careworn from days convulsed by sun
And the stale heft of midsummer air,
We hear a healing pour from where
Rows of sweet birch run
To darkness but still ladle light. 

Dry waves of wind pick up, reveal
An intermittent flash of plumage;
Gigue-quick fluster amid foliage
Or feather flared to sorrel,
Green to brown and white.

Hours tossed in tumult seem to settle
And hold apace; we are content
To remain here for a moment,
Perhaps an hour until
The soft withdrawal of light.

Sensing this, an easeful cadence
Tumbles to earthbound ear;
Woodlands, in turn, appear
To ache in silence –
Sound displaces sight.

The permeable down of song
Comes to nest in us,
Melts shade to solace –
The timbre of other tongues
In dappled light.

A sudden slap and flurry of wings,
Branches blur in fitful bustle;
Bird now indistinguishable
From leaves; something
Of or from the night.




Might this be the fabled raptor
The gods chose as tormentor
Of Prometheus?

Its massive wings the size
Of a boy’s body, lurid eyes
Of yellow rust
Portend the sharp talon,
The terrible tongue
And beak thrust

Into flesh, the grim price     
For fire’s gruesome sacrifice
That’s best

Left to myth. Now, angler of air,
Wings hover and drift clear
Of marsh,

Pause, then plummet to prey,
The bird’s body a fanned display
Of feathers crushed.

It returns to air with writhing fish
Held head-long thru gusts
Of wind – and us.

For Father

And with ghastly whispers tell, that
joy, once lost, is pain.  – Percy Bysshe Shelley


This morning, in need of healing,
I took the more
Desolate road to you
Along the high ridge of lake
Where pines are tall enough
To knead the fog that’s as thick
As the clouds uncoupling
In this bowl. For a sudden 
Moment, the surface cleared
Like a mind emptying.

As is our custom,
I dip the razor’s neck, slap
The pool of porcelain in such
A way your hands instinctively
Open to catch the muffled drum
Of air. With each slow stroke
Swallowed by your cheeks
I see how your mouth has settled
Like an open wound and how the
Glad green has gone from your eyes,
Hazel leaking away, and
How it seems every part of your
Body is flaking flesh.

A time before you came to be
In their keeping and housed
Among fresh-laundered scents –
Anticipating the arrival of a
Stillness so much different than
The life you’d led – the utter shame
Of idleness and the taking of
Something too readily offered;
A keen distrust of strangers
And too-soon smiles; an uneasy
Comfort taken only by constantly
Pushing yourself years beyond reason;
Holding to a deep-down knowing that
It is always possible to persist
Despite the blur and blending of
Seasons or young and vulnerable sorrows
Breaking in early morning when time
Holds like a breath drawn.


Yard Work


That mound of cedar mulch
Bleeds steam and water and
Will not have me idle.
Twelve yards worth holds
Like a hill, and on a certain
Sunday it is an oriole’s perch
That impales me to loam
Until the coal-bright ember
Drifts up past brush and I
Return numb with knowing
Of yet more hours to come
Casting cedar, only to hear
Some other color calling
Distinct and distant – the
Luck and luxury of gold
Glaze flickering to flourish
In air before the rouge
Could be hastily fixed upon 
The blue blush of sky.



Lion’s Tooth, sulfur-yellow tam of tuft
Holding horizontal like a small
Brocade set atop a hollow stem,
I watch your virus-quick transformation
From tasseled floret to ghost, a soft
Orb of seed, gossamer halo, tiny
Translucent moon of grandeur that
Is unmoored from a nest of coarse,
Serrated leaf and, breaking huddle,
Is taken up by wind bearing your
Ravenous progeny and their innate
Lust for land, setting forth as light
As breath to probe and place
Bearded bristles – treble hooks –
That bleed into taproots the size
Of small snakes, descending
Deeply down to a cooler earth,
Before fever spreads like a rash
Across the green flesh of grass.
Miracle weed, your blotched
And buttery folds, low and land-
Locked, still heal us with a verdant
Balm of latex and iodine.

I Mean to Be a Watcher of Tides


I mean to be a watcher of tides,
Silver-blue waves buckling
And rolling like wide
Flatcars rumbling
Into a railyard. Tethered
Boats, sun-dappled, rock
Drowsily. Deep to ear,
The harbor’s horn –
A bassoon’s low moan –
Gives voice to air.
Gulls, wind-ushered, glide
By like a squadron
In fixed form, banking
Towards a weathered pier.

It is difficult to discern
If the waves are bearing
Or creating light. Layering
Of milky slosh churns
To froth; glistening
Particles of sand, dried
To silt by sun, burn
Molten gold resembling
Tiny coins. Channels
Run gray to amber
Until egrets return
In their gliding
Clouds of cream-
White flaring.


after Gerard Manley Hopkins


Heart near bursting, resplendent annunciation,
Blue-grey salutation and voluptous ravishing,
Wing-tips funneled, ineffable glistening
In vernal vestment, hope incarnate
Ushered from effulgent air, blowsy brown chestnut,
At Eastertide.

Vanquisher of despair, chalice of moon-gold crust           
Glory-be aspergillum, sunlight’s opulent dust
Glistening, carillon in dew-struck crepuscular
Archangel’s ablution and healing breath.
Fatal flames forge a new, eternal covenant,                          

Froth in wet enamel sheen. Up and up brightest
Wings burnished – cloud-crumpled flight,
Inimitable lapis, feather blush triumphant
Pyre rising with sudden, seraphic sword –
Oh, deliverer of salvation, falling upwards
Towards green skies.