Patrick Carrington - "Smoky Mountain Symphony," "Grazing the Southwest," and "Honest Days."

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.



Honest Days

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 ReviewAmerican 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 (

Posted on December 7, 2013 .