Near midnight, I sit at the computer waiting for clothes to finish drying, skimming an article on the 10 proven ways I might curb my depression, expecting nothing but the normal procession of today to tomorrow: I will fold the clothes, unplug cords, cut the lights, lock the doors, resisting the urge to check every closet, to look beneath the couch, within each cabinet, any place someone intent on harm might be hiding— a secret bedtime routine of my childhood.
Over the dryer’s thump, heat pumping against a 20-degree night, wind rushing the vinyl siding, I hear my daughter react to some vision, giggle like she does when we play, two-year-old girl who was not long ago resisting sleep, as I at times resist waking.
Let me believe in whatever it was she just saw, in whatever it was that danced through her mind and she found to be funny, whatever jest, whatever joy, dwells in her dreams, whatever it is I so often forget though it abides in darkness just the other side of the wall.
(Winner of the 2014 George Scarbrough Award in Poetry, subsequently published in Menacing Hedge)
Second Coming on South Cobb Drive
This great blue heron is in rebellion of what I expect it should be. It does not stand in grandeur; rather, it hunches like a weary man, waits in the water of a drainage ditch filled with car parts, branches, beer cans, beside a shack, rims and road signs nailed to rotting boards by South Cobb Drive.
Soon the heron lifts like a plastic bag caught in an updraft, ascends over my car, over the highway, one with sky and smog set against the slopes of Kennesaw Mountain, a ridgeline scaling pawn shops, porn stores, fast food. The great bird settles in a concrete streambed that carves an apartment complex, watches the water for movement, for life, as traffic slouches north.
(Originally published in Thrush)
The Wish to Sing with Primitive Baptists
Northbound on Old 41, I pass a church I’ve passed for years—Blue Springs Primitive Baptist, resting at the edge of highway and high school parking lot.
A board hangs out front, says Singing tonight. I think how I’d like to join them, if I could, how I’d like to take my son with me, now drifting to sleep in his car seat behind me, how we’d both love to sing if matters of belief were of no consequence.
It would come down to this, I know: I do not believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the sense that he just up and walked from the grave only to ascend and wait to return for the world’s last war. I do not believe in the flame that, some say, awaits sinners, unbelievers, doubters and seekers, followers of other faiths. I do not believe in sin or salvation, in the righteousness of the chosen, the fallenness of creation, the inherent corruption of the world.
I believe that God is going to sleep in the seat behind me, and that is all.
They might tell me I am wrong, eventually, once they found out. Even so, I imagine turning my car, waiting for the evening song, for a thousand tongues to sing in communion with this small congregation, a remnant people in a remnant place, losing ground.
(Originally published in Town Creek Poetry, republished at The Good Men Project)
Gulf Fritillaries, Allatoona Creek
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things... —Gerard Manley Hopkins
As we drove to this place, we noticed more than one church sign that spoke of Satan. NRA decals mocked a dead young man, beckoned us to Stand and Fight. A Confederate battle flag beat in wind rushing a suburban lawn where political signs for a man who has linked the president to Hitler proclaimed allegiance from clipped grass. All this and every imaginable chain asserted their names on this corridor now split by 41, once by exile and war.
Whether this world is charged, whether this is its time of flaming out, are questions we cannot afford to ask here, walking these trails through a county park, ducking spider webs, tangles of muscadine, stepping over logs and mud puddles, watching our children wade, splash, throw rocks in Allatoona Creek where it runs along a sewer line.
In the clay sand, coyote scat marks this place unknowable to us, not our own or anyone’s, draws a gathering of butterflies:
gulf fritillaries, alighting on excrement, flaring flame wings in midmorning, sucking the marrow of the waste, consuming such redemption as I have missed.