As SMN editor Scott McLeod has noted (for my benefit) on several occasions: “A little bit goes a long way.” Newspapers are not the vehicles of choice for poems.
Nevertheless, it’s that time again. These poems are part of a collection of 35 essays and 25 poems — as well as artwork by my wife, Elizabeth Ellison — that will be published this summer by The Natural History Press (a subsidiary of The History Press located in Charleston, S.C.). They are simple poems. But they are the best that I can do and I want to share them with you. I almost forgot to add that the title of the collection is Near Horizons.
Buzzards are not pretty and they cannot sing.
But their days are filled with clouds and sun –
light and long dreams of landscapes seen in
flight over which their shadows trace the
contours of a folded terrain embedded
in ancestral memory. Not having a voice
box they can only hiss and growl. Never-
the-less at a high elevation overlook when
they come close riding an updraft you will
hear the music in their wings as they slice
through the air and descend in circles
until the last moment when suddenly
they hold wings high and alight with
well-timed awkward grace.
Spring & Branch & Creek
Below the high divide water issuing
from vertical rock gathers itself &
becomes a branch … darting here
& there … lingering in ornate asides
as eddies that spiral one way coming
& the other going in defiance of the
Corialis … shining in sunlight &
darkening in rain … moving on …
gravity flowing … seeking confluence
at a prong or a fork & becoming a
creek … pursuing its own syntax
to the ocean despite enjambments
encountered along the way.
Points of Light
Try to remember whenever we meet
and I have little or nothing to say that
doesn’t mean I’m neither here nor there ...
look for the random points of light in the
hooded shadows of my eyes … listen to
the rhythms in each of these lines beating
slowly ... oh-so-slowly ... just for you.
Evelyn Z. Smyth (May 1, 1815-December 3, 1909)
Every Thing That Could Go Wrong Did
And Pursued Me Over The Water And
Into A Far Land Where I Now Reside In
Dark Discontent Under This Cold
Slab Of Nantahala Blue Marble
Sardines at Whiteside Mountain
(for Bob and Glenda Zahner)
for us because
we brought sar-
dines. Riding up-
drafts and swirling
currents of air the
for their exotic fare
by gliding steady as
an arrow in full flight
before adjusting wing
or tail so as to execute
sudden turns or dives
with self-assured grace
... and then they ate their
well-earned tin of sardines.
Rave on Shining Water!
Name the mountain ranges & rivers:
Bald … Black … New Found … Balsam
Smoky … Cowee … Nantahala … Fish Hawk
Snowbird … Tusquitee … Unaka … Unicoi … Iron
Cohutta … New … Nolichucky … Swannanoa
French Broad … Oconaluftee … Tuckaseigee
Cullasaja … Hiwassee … Little Tennessee
Ocoee … Tellico …Tennessee
Ohio … Mississippi.
Welcome vast slow-burning chemistry of stars!
Welcome sunlight galvanized by thermal waves!
Welcome comets a-blaze for 1,000,000 miles!
Welcome lightning connecting earth & sky!
Welcome raindrops strung on fence wire!
Welcome gold rings in a bitterns’ eyes!
Welcome iridescence of raven wing!
Welcome emerald fire from moss!
Welcome silvery flakes of mica!
Welcome silica glint in sand!
Welcome electron orbiting!
Welcome eyes gleaming!
Roar mountains with
praise for your ancient rivers
that begin here & find their way down to
the Gulf of Mexico … rave on shining water
& welcome the flame that resides within
& flows through all things ...