By Charles Wright
Dove-twirl in the tall grass.
End-of-summer glaze next door
On the gloves and split ends of the conked magnolia tree.
Work sounds: truck back-up beep, wood tin-hammer, cicada, fire horn.
History handles our past like spoiled fruit.
Mid-morning, late-century light
calicoed under the peach trees.
Fingers us here. Fingers us here and here.
The poem is a code with no message:
The point of the mask is not the mask but the face underneath,
unhoused and peregrine.
The gill net of history will pluck us soon enough
From the cold waters of self-contentment we drift in
One by one
into its suffocating light and air.
Structure becomes an element of belief, syntax
And grammar a catechist,
Their words what the beads say,
words thumbed to our discontent.
CHARLES WRIGHT, the current U.S. poet laureate, will be presented the annual Charles E. Burchfield Award in recognition of his “outstanding achievements in the arts which express a commitment to environmental sustainability” at a recognition dinner at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. He is the author of 24 poetry collections, two books of essays and three books of translation. His many international honors include the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, Bollingen Prize, Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the International Griffin Poetry Prize, as well as the 2008 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize in Poetry from the Library of Congress. This is the title poem of his 1995 collection “Chickamauga” (the reference is to a creek running through southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia that was the site of the second-bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and numerous Cherokee-American Wars in the 18th century) published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, a part of his 30-year span of “trilogy of trilogies” that has become known as his “Appalachian Book of the Dead.”