First wood smoke scent on the wind— lungs twinned full of fire’s sharpness, charwood ghosting down through a northeast growing colder. Land of chimneys and bibles. When all creatures begin their hidden dens, when mornings spin clearer
and the moon scythes through day’s blue harvest, one star dies there, remnant mineral that shimmers and unshackles fall’s fluency, unwinds the body into trestle and scar. Not honesty, but clarity that mothers eyes into the dimming, imperishable pasture.
after Steven C. Brown
for Dan Corrie
In this, the sixth month, birds insist
the morning to a jarring bliss—but to think
of the cold blossoming from a sparrow’s
breath in winter’s stone stillness
is to find these sonatas mockery, mantic
surrenders to summer’s scald.
Behind these days of flecked glass and tea,
the potted spill of fern and phlox,
from these hours of leafhurt, these galaxies
of scattered grass, something speaks
beneath the earth—not devil or creature
or even bone, but sepulchered memory,
sounds star-silent, annulled of tongue,
no less language to tabulate
this algebraic bloom and bough.
Furnace and Fox
Tonight so clear the Milky Way shimmers like a stoked furnace,
the scattered stars like rogue embers deep in a bloomery.
I recall my father’s face, the orange light of the wood stove
imprisoned in his skin, his eyes trapping the firelight
until he’d lobbed and poked the pine logs, then shut
and latched the grate. The chimney roiled the wind
with the sweet-sharp scent of charred trees, a smell
that I catch tonight through the open window despite
the lingering scent of a cold rain that’s come and gone,
rushed and vanished over town like smoke.
That was the year my father smelled of tobacco and rum,
leather and stone, the year the house creaked hollow,
ticking down into the gravity of his loneliness. That was the year
his silence began in earnest, the months he embraced
his bitterness, mantled it on his body like a second skin.
Nothing mattered then save the language of the woods—
the single plum tree sprouting tiny, sour hearts, the bullfrogs’
blaring counterpoint to owls that never asked any question,
only swooped to snag a shrew or mouse and disappear
back into the darkness of their hunger. That winter, the nights
were stitched with screams, half-human, half-angel, nephilim
wails that braided through trees so loud they woke one
from deepest dreams of attics afire, of possession lost to the throat
of flame. They woke one to stand dizzy and stumble numb-footed
out into the cold with no malice, only dazed wonder at the face
that glowed low from the dead leaves: a fox so still and obsessed
it became a creature of ruby, of snow-mask and bloodroot
whose radiance granted my father rare joy, first healing.
William Wright is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the forthcoming Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press) and Night Field Anecdote (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011), and editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, an ongoing, multi-volume series celebrating poetry of the American South. He is founder of Town Creek Poetry. Recent work can be found in Oxford American, Shenandoah, AGNI, Epoch, Indiana Review, New Orleans Review, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Marietta, Georgia.