Deployment’s the odd word on the e-mail invite. Here is this tiny house in Pulaski, this small sweet handsome man heading for some damned camp, then Kuwait or Afghanistan. Here are gin and tonics, canapés, some brave glasses of champagne, the much- needed buzz. Here I am annoyed when the hot cream of Crab Rangoon spits over my silk shirt. Outside, on the porch, the day- lilies burn, the festive bubble machine, in perfect silence, exudes one sphere after another, each a wet skin the sheen of rainbow. The breeze strays them, their summer ranks spread, they take their turns, they glitter, they burst.Writers’ Tour of Kayford Mountain –
October 16, 2006(for Edwina Pendarvis and Katie Fallon)
Today’s quiet is arranged for us, the tourists of evisceration. None of the usual dynamite, none of the usual draglines gnawing innards like hagfish or lamprey. It’s an abeyance too large to fill with words, though I try, naming plants growing still in the face of blasphemy, mere inches from the edge. I hug Eddy, whisper lamb’s quarter, lady’s thumb, motherfuckers, motherfuckers. In what was heart and now is hole, air mounts and hardens, dust swirls and settles, the felled trees smoulder, a useless fuel. Wild strawberry, dewberry, pokeweed. Crows circle where the planet’s darkness once was dense, is now dispersed, in the emptiness left inside when entrails are uncoiled and minced into bits. Far below, a few trucks grumble with inertia, sun shudders in the pit’s black pools, on the shattered shale. Here the forest ends, the long drop begins. Here cedar waxwings turn back. Sumac’s red, sugar maple’s burn. Our weakness disappoints the dead. Here, in the shiver of lavender asters, their faces appear, their mute lips move. Glowering, they dissolve.Three Crosses(for Cynthia Burack)
Isn’t the ironweed enough? And the hemlock needles edged with frost, as if a castle’s crenellations were carved from crystal? To remind us of God’s glory, he said, and squandered a fortune on crosses, trios blue and gold, making Calvary common as the next pasture, the next interstate curve. Isn’t the Storm Moon enough, white pine boughs shaking off snow? Crocus resurrection, purple and gold? * This is what you do, with your fat book of black and gold, your love of mirrors, your stained-glass abbatoirs. He hung on that prairie fence for hours. She hanged herself in the barn. His body was found in a toilet. She ran away from home. This is what you do, your prayers muttered in the voter’s booth, your certainty that a soiled world is soon due to end with you. * Evil sees evil everywhere. And so the streams run orange, mountaintops peel off like scabs, red spruce needles dissolve beneath sulfuric drizzle. Evil only loves its own reflection, in broken glass, in slurry puddles. Evil only loves what is eternal. * What I want’s a savior in my sheets, brief as that bliss might be. Brown eyes, brown goatee, thunderheads of body hair. Some scruffy Christ roped down, ball-gagged and melodic, eager as any sacrifice to be eaten. What I want’s a mountain landscape without a wound. What I want’s the skill to break the jaw of vicious piety, the strength to rescue what I love. What I want’s a chainsaw on Easter Sunday, and a heap of broken crosses for the Beltane bonfire. My new world’s the ring-dance, the blaze, wine scented with woodruff, benediction of maple leaves.
Jeff Mann teaches literature and creative writing at Virginia Tech. His poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications including Shenandoah, West Branch, Crab Orchard Review, Prairie Schooner, and Appalachian Heritage. He is the author of a number of books of poetry, including Flint Shards from Sussex, winner of the 1999 Gival Press Poetry Contest (Arlington, VA). He is the author of the memoir Loving Mountains, Loving Men (Ohio University Press) and a collection of essays, Edge (Haworth Press).