Issue 4:1 I Poetry I Tim Peeler
I am the mute that reads the river,
that spreads the map across the rocks
and listens to the hewing green water.
My childhood slipped bend to bend,
through cow-pied pastures, by bream ponds,
muddy breathless miles, forgotten murder scenes.
I watch for the girls that doffed at the mill,
fourteen, fifteen, a barefoot child on their hips,
never beautiful, wading below the dam.
Some days I mime a history,
a fresh liquid mystery, boys in
railroad caps on bicycles, crossing the dam.
Sometimes the river is a belly
scratching itself as it passes, waving under
wisteria, a sun-spotted moccasin.
Under the concrete bridge, an alphabet
gathers over shiny pebbles; catfish,
catfish, if I could only speak.
What it Means to Be an American
The gray rabbit skitters side to side
at the edge of the wet hay field, then
darts back into gnarled undergrowth.
Herefords and Angus no longer lawyer
up in clover and fescue by rusty fence,
bits of grain stuck in moist pink nostrils.
At night, the darkness bricks the meadow,
the disheveled barn burgled by moonlight
where old hay lies rotting in the musty loft.
No neurotic chickens stalk the yard;
no muddy hogs snort in the lot
behind the roofless woodshed.
This land waits for the next thing, the orange
ribboned right of way, surveyors' stakes,
the yellow metal prediction of bulldozers.
Hoe Boy Checks the Paint
The devil's comin' for your soul, Dean;
I saw you in the river of sky, wrinkled
and red, looking like Nixon or Poe.
Here above the dam, lightning spikes,
and I picked your Santa nose over
a rock; the bream are biting, they say,
but I don't believe it. Every whistled
song is a part of the whole song. I
remember that from a book, and
your tree is turning like the maples
at Moses Cone, blood on the church
floor where Hildebran shot his
escaped slave. That kind of red
is what we have come to, Dean.
Hoe Boy's Death Poem
My cousin Alan is a grave,
his little sister, Julie too, in red
Rowan clay, golden leaves
tumbling from creepy oaks
into brittle fiery heaps.
The spin of this imperiled
ball, swallowed whole
by weather, dunked in fearful
endless slather gravity, matters
only my heart keeps me above.
Death was always the way
according to the phone call,
yet hardly a dropped dime
cooked in cranberry moonlight,
quiet as a snowflake on a tombstone.