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ISSUE:  Autumn 1991
in memory of John Longley


The piper resuscitates his windbag,
elbows it into a drone so intense
it hurts, at such close range.

And fingers a piercing dirge,
his black foot marking stately time.


The long road home, John:

down your driveway to the Seminole Trail,
south over the bloated Hardware and Otter and Tye,
through Motley, Providence, Hurt,
past realtors who “Sell the Earth, and All Thereon.”

And the tires’ radial drone.


Kudzu pours over the landscape
like a bad metaphor.

I race through the landscape
reckless as another undergraduate abstraction
haunting your office.

And the day does its best
to encourage the pathetic fallacy:

fresh-washed sky twinkling like your eyes,
clouds immaculately white as your moustache
and laurel-crown of hair,
the whole afternoon amazingly gracious.


If I stop between towns
and turn off the car and walk into a field
and close my eyes and wait,

if I lie awake in bed in utter darkness
and listen hard,

if I sit at my writing desk
and stare at the grave page long enough,

I can hear it:
the double-reed tone of mind and body,
the ringing in the ears that means

yes Lord, I’m alive.


Near Shangri-La,
that lilliputian paradise
built by a local eccentric in his side yard,
a buzzard rides his patient circuit,
wobbling over the day’s data.

And a scarlet Virginia creeper
skirts up a border pine,
first sign of fall.

And the sun, that ancient mourner,
lights the road like bourbon in the belly,
warming to its familiar story
even as it sets.


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