Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep
by Lowell Jaeger

ISBN 978-0-9725384-8-0 and 0-9725384-8-8
About 128 pages, 6" x 9",
perfect bound paperback.
Price: $16
Arctos Press, 2009

"Suddenly" may be purchased directly from the poet





Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep

Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep



That ragged winter of lost jobs at the mill,
I heard the word welfare
which was everywhere my father
had gotta go, he’d say,
jamming his work boots
into black galoshes that flapped against his ankles
because the zippers didn’t work anymore than he did.

He’d nod without lifting his eyes
to my mother’s whispered bye.
She’d stand at the window
with the door latched after him,
wanting him and maybe not wanting him
to turn and return
her hand’s halfhearted so-long.

I watched his shoulders hunch
as he trudged out our drive,
leaning into driven snow, fists knotted
in his jacket pockets, his bristled jaw clamped.
And when he returned I heard his coat sleeves’ thaw
splash on the kitchen linoleum
– each drip ticking in that charged silence –
till he tore open the blue envelope.

That’s all, he’d say.
Mother would bite her lip and look away
as he’d wad the check,
then knuckle it smooth
on the table. Even with five kids,
he’d draw up his chest,
that’s all they give me.

Once I sat with my father on the wooden chairs
in a waiting room downtown. I’m broke,
Father told the man in the tie.
And that was true.
I’d have to get big, I guessed,
just to get through this
as day by day my father tramped
into the grey beyond our walk.
And flurries blurred him.
Made him small.

Poem by Lowell Jaeger from "Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep."




lives locked inside
a hand-worked leather sheath,
stitched with cowhide thong.
Two loops knot the grip
so snug no one fumbles with this blade
without provocation.

I’m reluctant to study it
when my dad descends the attic ladder
Sunday after church,
box of war relics in tow.
And the need to trouble us
with the same stories, and how
he hopes his boys
will never have to go.

His knuckles whiten on the knife.
Stole it off a dead Hungarian.
Says he unwrapped the man’s hand
from the handle and stripped
the sheath from his belt.
I wish
my dad were making this up.
But he’s not. He winces
as he draws the sharp edge slowly
into this uncertain moment
decades after the fact. I see the dead man’s hand
in my dad’s flannel cuff,
buried swing shifts at the mill
forty hours plus overtime.

He hopes
and I hope harder
I’ll never have to go. He reaches,
hands the knife over.
I have to pry his fingers
and take it.


Poem by Lowell Jaeger from "Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep."



Among my favorites in Lowell Jaeger’s Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep, are the poignant poems to his father, a blue collar worker of the 50s – 60s, laboring long and deadly hours in a mill, ruining his health to feed a family living on the edge of poverty. Jaeger’s concise and precise language isthe piston that drives deep the emotion. The tone often recalls anotherMontana poet, Richard Hugo. In poems like “The Knife” and “You Ask”Jaeger’s imagery lifts everyday incidents into the realm of what Rilke termed, “a tenderness toward existence.” These poems of compassion and awakening sing a truly American story.
Pamela Uschuk, Poet and Editor of Cutthroat:
A Journal of the Arts

Lowell Jaeger was his grandmother’s “king of unspoken thinking,” and in Suddenly, Out of a Long Sleep he remembers, re-imagines and speaks to us of the “nameless art of lives entwining.” In poem after vivid poem, withcraft, dignity, and humor, he gives us the details, images and emotions that shape a life. This is the book of a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and a poet doing poetry’s good work.
Greg Pape, Poet and University of Montana Professor


Lowell Jaeger teaches creative writing at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana. He is the author of many books of poems, and his works have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals, including Poetry, Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry East, and Connecticut Review. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council. He lives in Yellow Bay, Montana on Flathead Lake with his wife, Amy, and their three teenage children.