Poetry from Absolute Faith
THE MOCKINGBIRD AT THE WRITERS' CONFERENCE
The plagiarist solos every morning at sunrise,
and loudly. We hear him high on the cornice,
gray throat working a line
clear and extravagant, urging us
out of our spare and stifling rooms.
From the vast water oak by the library
he recites before the morning lecture—
a sonnet of tanager, thrush couplet,
the caustic free verse of squirrels.
We hate him for his casual mastery
of form, and for being
the spontaneous poet we all want to be—
each borrowed phrase raised and melded
into art, each silvery intonation
the music and the mirror of deceit.
-Published in Asheville Poetry Review
How easy it is, to shut the damper thinking
the fire is dead. In the morning your sapless mouth
croaks with ash. Or maybe you've done nothing,
and still a skunk bivouacs beneath
the mice-ways and plumbing of your mountain home.
He endows the drapes, a seasonal legacy
creeping out of closets and the sofa's foam.
Ten years ago you told yourself such petty
griefs were nothing but beggar lice, but now
you're finding it harder to shrug and forget the burrs
that seem to stick to everything you know.
It's not the way you want to live, and there's
good reason to keep from keeping that list
you dearly love--those things gone wrong or missed.
What was I thinking about, driving
home that night, turning some unmade
choice like a set of keys in a coat pocket—
when a fox leapt from a laurel brake
just as my headlights swept the curve.
Spotlighted mid-arc, he twisted
back upon himself as lithe and fluid
as a whip, so his rear paws touched
instead of the front and he was
back in the woods he leapt from.
I think it the most graceful movement
I have ever seen, pure suppleness, like a wreath
of red smoke touching a breeze. Such a moment
terrifies, such ease in changing direction,
without plans, wholly committed to a move
and then undoing it, without caprice,
just absolute faith in opposites, seconds apart.
-Second Prize Winner, Chester H. Jones 1999 National Poetry Competition
-Selected for Poetry in Plain Sight Initiative, N.C. Poetry Society, 2021