Writer in Residence · 12/24/2011

Appalachian Silence among the Dark Selves

Loss is its own gain.
     Its secret is emptiness.

— Charles Wright, “Reading Lao Tzu Again in the New Year”

Intrusions of the Familiar

A silence in the dogwoods
refuses the morning any respite
from its grief, a friend is dead,
and the rain, days away. This

waiting drifts the fence, a twist
of broken wire and cedar posts,
under long seamless grays of late

spring. Somewhere a storm
pulses at the edges wanting in —
like watching an old movie
in a darkened room, threads
of smoke following light
to an unforgiving screen.


Praising the Undesirables:

Two turkey vultures
     in the walnut tree,
snake doctors over
     the thick green pond
behind the hill,
     one bench, weed-covered,
broken on one end —

     and there’ll be no moon
tonight — but will be
     June bugs and earwigs
tomorrow — in the boxwood,
     a writing spider
that knows my name
     and will take the time


Bringing to Boil

This morning, mid-September,
the rooms of my house asleep,
I’m reading Ecstatic Occasions,
Expedient Forms, drinking coffee
from the mug Mary gave me —
a perfect heavy to my hand —
glancing out my door, looking
for something hidden, maybe,
something careless. I spoon
jelly over a halved piece of toast
left from last night’s supper.
The sweetness of the grape
in my mouth — but there’s an edge
of sour, and that’s the beauty
of my Mother coming through —
in the swill of her kitchen,
in the heat of her stove,
such a clash of disparate things,
such a rumble of the smooth.


Three Stanzas for My Father

Wind across the Bradfords is
a perfect silence through glass —
fourth floor — life in silent mode
where a tumor is a tumor is

a tumor. The leg wraps pulsing
to hold back the clots. Titanium
rod buried in bone. Two blankets
for the cold as if winter were hiding

somewhere in the dawn, and
the wobble in your voice were
enough to explain the need
for one more spring, and…


November, Deeper Than Elsewhere

So I’m reading Rilke — his lines to Orpheus,
“give the heaviness back to the weight
of the earth,” and I feel that weight, a lump,
that rock, heavy in the bottom of my breathing –

Listen. Do you hear it? — a heavy settled
as if to hold me to darkness, as if to block
my passway, and when I breathe, something
rattles in my throat, something I’ve never heard,

and when I breathe, whatever it is I am,
this baffled ooze of will and don’t, lets go –
like a balloon, air sputtering from its mouth,
flitting in awkward loops to the floor,

like a baggy, squeezed before it’s sealed,
left on a counter, a leaf, water beading
its veins, then swallowed by the still pond,
so silent, no one will notice, though

they’ll feel something leaving,
something missing, and they’ll reach
for that opening, that hollow place,
but will have no words for it.


Winter Poem for the Listener

The wish for sprawls of field so deep,
so white the eyes must turn away,
a need for something more than sun

for shards of ice on creek rock,
for smoke rising, for thin chatters of birds

an aching for that silent moonless cold
of stars drifting their silent seas

for the cloud of words at my mouth
when I say what it is I must say

for the one tree, empty
limbs scratching skyward
as though this were the only way


A song for the entire suite:

John Prine, “Paradise”

For individual sections:

“Intrusions of the Familiar“ / Thelonious Monk, “Epistrophy”

“Praising the Undesirables:” / Joni Mitchell, “Black Crow”

“Bringing to Boil” / Patty Griffin, “Making Pies”

“Three Stanzas for My Father“ / Johnny Cash, “Hurt”

“November, Deeper Than Elsewhere” / Lucinda Williams, “I Envy the Wind”

“Winter Poem for the Listener” / Gordon Lightfoot, “Song for a Winter’s Night”


Sam Rasnake’s works, receiving five nominations for the Pushcart Prize, have appeared in OCHO, Wigleaf, > kill author, Big Muddy, BLIP, Poets / Artists, Literal Latté, fwriction : review, MiPOesias, Portland Review, Best of the Web 2009, BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2, and Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2011. His latest collection is Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press).


posted by Kathy Fish