Begin With Words Worth Saying
And surrender the wind that shapes them.
Give up the tongue curled back like a shell,
the dream asleep in the mouthbed.
Give up the gravel in a prisoner’s song,
the soft leather tapping, the pitched fans of dirt.
Give up the pelican’s gullet and the “S” in the swan,
the compass, the butterfly, the rainwet concrete.
Give up the flowershop spilled over Fannin Street,
the trombone yellow and the stammering blue.
Give up the skin on the alligator tree, the cottonmouth,
the rabbit’s nest, the grackle. Give up the clockfaces
that quarter our time, give up the horsehair and the flint.
Carry the quiet around the chimney you find
in a clearing of woods you thought you knew.
Carry the distance between you and the boat
that rocks at the dock like a bell.
Carry the promise you made with the clay
when its rust mixed with blood on your tongue.
David Bernardy was born in Vero Beach, Florida, and grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia. His work has appeared in Cite, The Allegheny Review, Brevity, and River City. He teaches English at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina.