Smokey Mountain Symphony
He sings from ancient mountains
where I carried his flakes
to paradise to rest beneath
the turquoise plumage of buntings
and sky, the night cries of red wolves.
He was small on my lap,
but when I opened the urn
the wind lifted the ashes
and his throat, sprinkled him
across the wilderness, and
he was god again,
resurrected in his first and final home,
the place of blue smoke where
he walks young once more, barefoot
with salamanders, bleeds red
into the roots of spruces.
I hear you, my father,
in the aria of fir trees and flame azaleas
as they bend in breezes, in ballads
of Carolina mud and moonshine,
in the steel of railroads and hard rain,
in carols from campfires. I feel you,
in the cutting strings of your Gibson
as they purple and callous my fingertips,
in dark clogs of blackberries
that stained your boy lips blue
and block the paths of your wide grave,
in the flurry of wildflowers, picked
for her pretty eyes, that garnished
my mother’s hair. I can sense
your tongue, your breath,
in the vapor that glazes the breathing
peaks, licks the oily residue of forest air
that coats this valley of the Cherokees,
in the integrity of red men who walked
in your aching words and in these woods
where you sing and sleep.
Grazing the Southwest
Night in the desert is cold enough
to make a sleeping man reach
for a woman who isn’t there.
And wake, arms
around his own moans.
Day vanished when I wasn’t looking.
It brushed by like the wind
of me, without tickling
the windchimes she’d hung
on the windows as tells.
I pull a flask from the hip pocket
I might as well stitch to my chest.
There’s a certain romance in being
warmed by whiskey, and suffering
in the dust like a cowboy—no time
to think of women you’ve deserted
with longhorn to move.
I show defiance in a four-day beard,
a carefree lilt of hip and accent,
like I know the way to Montana.
I’ll sleep when I find the feeding
veins of the Colorado,
where dreams bring them back
like April brings rivers.
I know the whistle of wind
curling through corn
on its winding way, have seen
it flutter and tease the husks
and say goodbye, have heard
the hidden yellow call
its rain to return, needing
one more touching.
I know the contact of thumb
on tobacco leaf, the tender rub
of nurture on its heavy green,
have felt that fatherly flick of skin
before sunbeams sat
on the eyes of men who do
their weighty work in cool shade.
I have cut the hickory for barn fires
that turn that grass hue brown
with smoke, have lit the match
that fosters change, snapped
the stems that feed a nation
and run for pails to moat their base
with drink. The source of life
is in those toils and touchings
and pourings, the incorruptible
probe of dirt and the knowing
that your fibrous sons and daughters
who you care for in the dark,
boots crusted and hands cracked,
will rise through mud
toward the light of other children.
Patrick Carrington is the author of Hard Blessings (MSR Publishing, 2008), Thirst (Codhill, 2007), and Rise, Fall and Acceptance (MSR Publishing, 2006), and recipient of the 2008 Matt Clark Prize in poetry from LSU's New Delta Review. He has also been a finalist in 2007/2008 for the Black Warrior, Yellowwood, Paumanok, Briar Cliff Review, and New Millenniums Poetry Prizes. Recent poems appear in The Bellingham Review, Tar River Poetry, Sycamore Review, The Connecticut Review, American Literary Review, and elsewhere. He teaches creative writing in New Jersey, and has deep southern roots in Tennessee. He serves as the poetry editor of Mannequin Envy (www.mannequinenvy.com).