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Poetry Moment: 'Reflection' by Dave Bonta

Poetry Moment on WPSU is a program featuring the work of contemporary Pennsylvania poets. Host Todd Davis is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona.

This episode’s poem is “Reflection” by Dave Bonta.

Dave Bonta lives in the same woods where he grew up near Tyrone, Pennsylvania, in northern Blair County. He's the author of several poetry collections, including Failed State: Haibun, Ice Mountain: An Elegy, and Breakdown: Banjo Poems. But his real work is at his literary blog Via Negativa, where he's been posting original writing on a nearly daily basis since 2003. He's also the publisher of Moving Poems, a website showcasing the best poetry videos on the web, and his own video poems have been screened at galleries and festivals around the world.

We live in a culture that encourages busyness and distraction. In fact, certain industries benefit from our lack of reflection, encouraging a sense of anxiety or some new desire that can only be satisfied by their product or service. Today’s poem creates a space in which the speaker slows down and attempts to withdraw from this frantic country, which he refers to as the “distracted states of america.” The poet asks us to consider the implication of the ways we live, to look in the mirror and examine the reflection of what we’ve become.

Here's —


burning some old barn
beams for fuel

the 19th-century knots
pop like pistols

and my train of thought
goes off the rails

forlornly blowing
its figurative whistle

into a night bright
with fallen snow

we’re all fugitives
from the present moment

in our distracted states
of america

no wonder it takes gunshots
to wake us up

i hear footsteps
in the kitchen

and find myself
in the bathroom mirror

happy to dwell
in this icy stillness

it’s the future
i’d like to escape

a choose-your-own-
doom story

we picture as a shining city
on a hill which once

might have been more
like a mountain


That was “Reflection” by Dave Bonta.

Hear more episodes of Poetry Moment at

Music by Eric Ian Farmer.

Todd Davis is the 2022-23 host of "Poetry Moment" on WPSU.