One of the pleasures of arriving in Lubbock has been getting to know its community of writers. I was fortunate to work with my neighbor John Poch on this volume of poems collected from contemporary southern poets. The stunning book cover puts me in mind of the occassional albino deer spotted in the suburban gardens of the piedmont of North Carolina. It’s the hart that leaps and says, Arise, beloved.
Writing the introduction offered a chance to have a little sport with the malleability and outrageous fortunes of academic disciplines. More important, it was a chance to reflect on the goodness of being part of a community of writers–I have been to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in both poetry and fiction–and the strangeness of critical schools and judgments. John has a strong eye for craft and depth of meaning and brought together a gracious harvest.
The suburban south is a place where life still has a way of outing itself, even where natural heritage is squandered. The stanza below is excerpted from a poem about cropping myrtles–a friend’s father calls the ritual Crepe Murder–and raising young things. The photograph was taken at Shaker Village in Kentucky.
Gracious, published by Texas Tech Press, can be purchased through these vendors.
Cropping the Myrtles
In those days when time led gently
I was not so convinced as my son
that the hair would come back with time.
And I have seen him bid sweet adieu
to his own soil in the alabaster pot
while wondering if he lost
some part of his substance
in singing the body excretive.
(Adult courage a mere cuckold
who must march to the meter
of a hundred rough masters.)
At his age, I did not go to the chair willingly, either.
As if I remembered the start of the barber’s trade
yet this good old boy with his ointments
was no bloodletter, receiving my son
to the chair’s withered loin, the booster atop the chrome,
not tonsuring nor taking away
but scissors setting sweet garland to the prince,
whispering, He’s a good boy. He’s a good boy.
I can tell he’s a good boy.
And he is. They are good because they grow;
they are best when they eat and grow
they are good because they still grow, and
their days, the sweet provender of youth,
digested and forgotten, yet coveted
by those in stuffed coats
who watch for the green blade.