Mountain Home

When that odd fruit tree salesman
from Poor Valley with the big ears,
A.P. and Esley, clinched mountain homes,
ironwood in milkweeds and honeysuckle,
stopped at the Shell station to ask
the attendants for songs, and he’d tell
the black man, Esley, he might could
write one, too, try yer hand at it,
we’s mountain folk. To fill up the
tank and rattle home with the bounty
from the Cherokee orchard, to bake
in Maybelle’s scratching skillet, and
Sara! Oh Sara, to’ve made that A.P.
Abraham the Pleasant, out to raise up
that nation from forest bones, to settle
instead into old age as another picto-
graph running an old stone general
store! And their feet carried them from
Del Rio to Brinkley’s border blaster
and from there again to opposite sides
of America. A.P., did you find the
spring of song and greenbacks? It didn’t
matter. You fell out your saddle of steel
and gut harpsichord strings, tumbling
into laurel ravines of forgetting. And
Isaac! Their Isaac in cylinders of wax,
the fever-child of the sterile clinching
and Mountain Home, of the fruit trees
and folk songs traded for the planting
and the singing, traded for the Family
and the Gap, traded for Bristol and
Kingsport, traded for Maces Spring and
traded for Canaan. Isaac in cylinders.
We heard you clinched in rage and grief
and scrape your knuckles on the ironwood
but you did, A.P. You raised up a nation.
And your mountain home is coming, yes.
Yes, your mountain home is coming, just
as always, in milkweeds and honeysuckle.
And we would sacrifice it all to come
home again. But feel the angels balanced
on the butt of your Buck knife, steady
in its movement down to laurel ravines.

In the longue durée

In the longue durée
we taste the goods less durable
we sip on gatherings broken up
and even thought is punctuated —
there being instances of idea
experienced as ideaing.

In the longue durée,
when, in the course of human events,
sometimes needing a push,
the dance of matter and energy
fail to uphold those distinctions —
and marches ensue. Long ones.

Across Jǐnggāng Mountains to the Black Sea,
through Missouri, marching republics
of Xenophon or the Lord.
Dwelling on the road,
moving down the question.

In the longue durée,
when we meet again,
the slowness of feet and the barbaric road
will have danced like matter and energy —
A stupid thing we anticipated for all the wrong reasons.

 

My Anglo-Saxon Soul

All your efforts and all your failures touch me
somewhere deep in my Anglo-Saxon soul –
What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?
– make me want to evict you and move into your house,
and for completely impersonal reasons, a stiff
upper lip and a cane, a paper and the hunt,
ever modern, ever multi-, democratic and free.
Always open for business, always cheering the meek
and waiting for my shot to fall, me or the quarry,
a Sunday roast bake and W.H. Auden. It’s really nothing
personal. All your efforts and all your failures
touch me somewhere. But we don’t touch that much.
And I would prefer it if you succeeded alone.

After the Abdication

IMG_20180115_150421

I.

The window opened
permitting the cold in
to permeate those sleeping

Under blankets placed
anonymously during the night.
Ones with plagues unseen;
spread
without symptom

Where were you (when
those breezes carried
down a plastic bag, then up again,
then reminded us with its

absence in crisp ancestral streets,
that it had been forgotten)
to help describe?
The ritual

II.

Against the grain
Between the rows

Subjected to the same winds
Symbol of our times
Zeitgeist in a smoky cinema
Hatching an all-embracing arm

Against the grain
and between the rows
a healthy bloom
hatching an all-embracing arm

for the workers in the field
to shave
against the grain
between the rows

apart
pollinating the winds
with that new style
refined taste

hatching an air guitar
a product line
a symbol of someone’s time;
where was I?

III.

Doubt has yet to perforate the
solace of denial, wound tight on this
drum of cyclical motives that resonates
with monotonous proficiency.

Dancers cast their shadows into the
cavernous well of perilous thought and yet the
edifice of an impeccable dance stays intact.
And when the screen and frequencies
broadcast the solid color in honor of
the monolith, whose boundless
reaches touch not even the pigments which
depict it,

What of the chaos below, the lifting off,
and the reserved life that awaits—
The disillusionment of those too old
for simply dietary comfort, and
too young to have gluttonized their rites
through a crumbled archway in Spring,
In a land of warriors-turned-bronze-in-memoriam?

IV.

I will tell you this once more before I recoil:
how you were born in a bull market
the boy in the housing bubble
and how the best saw it coming and
did nothing but profit.
how we’re alone in a spacial way
on the plains of Texas where
old bovine bone crush particulate dust
sat undisturbed a million fiscal years or more.
how the time you was given was a
slow boat to China with a leaky pontoon
and in this life who could never ask for more.
how some old hangin’ trees got perennial plaques
and some others give daily shade,
which was a harder place for Jonah to sit
than in the belly of the beast, but he did.
how some folk’ll count your words
and some your works but ’til you don’t count
for somethin’ then neither never musta
amounted to nothin’, blight that you are
on your best intentions.

After the abdication, when suffering
relinquishes its authority.
When, apart from suffering, we don’t know
the name to put on the grave.
When we’re rummaging. Rummaging through
copper, wax. Lost John. Lost John.
He outrun a message on the telephone.
Long gone. Long gone. Lost John.

while we’re rummaging through cylinders
in your grandfather’s barn
won’t somebody open a window
to let out this poor wasp?

And as for you, whose attentiveness frightens me:
I’m cultivating flakes of skin on the phonograph
grease stains on the glass
rust on the plowshares
and ashes on the dashboards.
This should tell you something
of my legacy.

Tactile Afterlife

Originally published in Heron Clan VI

I was at the age to guard the way the creek flowed like
it was some penmanship of larger men into the brown Carolina
and since waited on the country road and backwoods bridge

to become the compassionate elder viewing young catastrophes
and stepping panic stricken out into the power line clearing
as into the incisions of the black bear through hickory bark.

Then the dogwood blossoms fell before you knew it,
and with a vomit of flora the pessimism echo was muffled
as only I now recall how one or the other will first die.

Though in that green fury I am elated that it may be me.
The revolutionist’s preference is to explode like spring spores.
To collapse like the winter buck is the blackest rot.

Such interest in the produce of minds, you know, but
Carolina grows and grows again out of the cavities of
unevacuated chests – it may only be so.