Steer your crooked fiddle in a circle
back to home, warp it with daddy
and mama hawking albums at church
like you seeing a chicken brood itself
from snow. Catch it sung to a cloud.
Tune it down the coal road for sleep.
All the worn out mines, they watch you
from stoves. All the singing at night
slaps you awake when a sadness
fits the bar lot like your shadow.
I sang like you. I tuned up the ground
so it lives. I pictured it with redbirds
and wild bears on calendars and trays
in a trinket store. I kept poverty
as happy as a new law kinked on God.
It is January 7th.
The river bank is slick froze.
The box elders are twenty snags.
A crow flock shrugs into some pines
and each crow growls there. Maybe
the old red-tailed hawk is caught
in their minds, maybe a sharpie shrills
into the dark limbs then dissolves.
Emmit’s muskrat traps are empty.
And he’s left his one beer on the car hood
and Denny Hale’s slugged it dry.
We laugh at the boat landing, how cold
the day begins, how slow we look
at nothing else except a swamped boat
nudged across some icy stumps
and Emmit staring at Denny staring at dirt.
Something Like a War Raven
A raven snored in a cage.
Fireplace smoke slipped through its wing feathers
and fit the old mind to a cliff by the Potomac
where raven cries still moved inside the stone
and there were spleen ferns that reached in close
and mocked its voice where it dreamed.
I could almost ask while the raven slept,
if there was land in its shadow when it flew last year,
or if there was a midday fire long ago on a johnboat
while its ancestors glided among the buzzards
circling past White’s Ford. The hungriest thing
was its mind floating loose from all my words.
I knew its hunger had followed the cage.
Clyde Kessler lives in Radford, Virginia with his wife Kendall and their son Alan. He has had poems published recently in Cortland Review, Silver Blade, Metazen, Rose Red, and Now and Then. He is a founding member of Blue Ridge Discovery Center, an environmental education organization with projects in southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina.