Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Letter to Be Wrapped around a Bottle of Whiskey

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Letter to Be Wrapped around a Bottle of Whiskey

Article excerpt

for Bob Morgan

Water so thick

light just stumbles through

the cordials you've poured,

making a welcome table

of the cedar chest

the glasses lens

in some compound eye

to observe the story

of a rug or a plank

or a glass of whiskey.

Body and plant, body

and land. Conversations

are naturalists

or rivers, knowing

the schist and the batholith,

ginseng and Genesis,

gathering as they go.

Rise into the balds,

following streams

to their first ideas,

and the fork of the voice

will tremble, strike rock,

and draw the flood.

As corn, once wheat-thin,

will rise from any ground.

As it holds its sugars,

days it's concentrated

to such brightness

we distill, thought

to form, in the hollows

where we remembered

how to cut cadence

from a limb, a ballad

from a family

tree. As the maker of fire

brings the guitar

and the country song

from a turtle's shell

and the stomach of a lamb.

As what begins anywhere

started already somewhere

else. Here, in the ridge

and valley of voice

where you draw the well of song,

the spring that's warming now

in your talk, maybe

it is snowing now,

and a string band threads

the bruise of night

where windows are

crocuses offering their saffrons

to the cold and the snake-handler's

arms in the one-room church

antennas raised

to the broadcast Christ,

the zircon in his pocket

shaking the mustard seed

from the mockingbird,

gospel from the air,

the peavine of melody curling

on his tongue an air

the wanderers know,

having passed mouth

to mouth, over the sea,

guitar to glossolalia

in tangled lines. …

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