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Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3

Poetry

Tara PowellPhoto of Tara Powell.


Tara Powell is Assistant Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina at Columbia. Her poems have appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Southern Poetry Review, storySouth, and other journals. Her current research projects include New South verse memoirs, Waldensian-American life in Appalachia, and literary representations of Southern intellectual labor.

 

Drinking with the Poets on the Dock

Drinking with the poets on the dock
as Donald’s daughter rakes the pond scum
with the skeleton of last year’s goldenrod
and flicks the greengold drops up over us
to fall bright like rain, or sky spangled now
with daystars, and his great brown hound stretches
full in the afternoon like an old man
remembering, I see the tadpoles scoot
like needles in the tanned shallows, sewing
the reeds into the fabric of our talk
and the silt of the descending summer,
seamless as my shadow on the shoreline
until I shift to throw back my brown hair
and laugh as loud as if I belong there
under warm green rain as tadpoles shatter
like dark glass, tilting to the long dry stems
of my despair, hung with pollen
in the still expectant air.

 

Watching Deliverance with My Students

Breath still snags on my heart like teeth
when Drew gasps, "I’m lost," his laugh
drifting up to the banjo boy’s inscrutable perch,
and then, Ronny Cox showing his own teeth to sky,
the glint of leaf and sun in his eyes, before
the camera curves back into the trees
and dark frames close around the film like bars,
that’s the moment I remember every river bend
of my own travels, his face like your faces now,
ringed around this heavy seminar table,
oak polished to mirrors. You don’t know
what a red shirt is, don’t fathom what happens
down the river of their discontent as the closed
dark frames bore you, their beer bores you,
the stringing of the bow, the owl howling
in the dark wood, the teeth of the forest
clacking in hunger while you are sleeping,
you who have seen all this before.
And the moment when it comes and refuses
to pass, but goes on and on in our dark room
in our honors college, pictures reflecting
from the screen to the golden table
like sun on cypress water, squeal
like a pig, squeal like a pig, pig, pig,
even then you don’t imagine your own
bellies fanning the damp leaves,
the scent that will stay with you always,
pressing of their bodies to watch, not watch,
but feel something tilt at the malaise
of sex and war and being young—
you, there, back of the class, head bowed weeping
with Bobby in the leaves and sweat and dark
before the lights go on and we all ride
down to the neon world again,
you have seen the thing itself alone,
even as you clench your eyes in terror
against the lesson, the television,
the sleeping bodies warm beside you,
the table holds the memory tightly
of your wet hands straining to hold on.

 

Coiffure

Our hair is four dark humors grown and split
to warm our bodies with their own autumn,
to channel sweat that drops down our long arms,
excite our lovers with strange strands of waste.
Our hair is shaved and plucked off faces pared
by day as bare as stone and just as pocked
by rough black wood that roots down deep in bone
and lifts all night to air to breathe, till dawn—
a belly pale as moon that curves to day.
Our hair, when we find it, curls in wonder
away from the blunt knife into shoulders
and secret places.  Think if we just grew,
became our own clothing, how gently we
would sway, green each morning breeze with our shampoo!

 

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