From amidst the dreck on the deep-discount shelves at the bookstore an unexpected gem slips into my hand: a thin paperback collection of poems, James Applewhite's Quartet for Three Voices (2002, LSU Press). Applewhite is a professor at Duke University who writes poetry of startling range and power. Interstate Highway, dedicated "to our daughter Lisa", is a loving glimpse of the night when a life began. The F-117 Nighthawk at Wright-Patterson spins a web of metaphor between Greek mythology and the technology of a stealth fighter aircraft. Upstream from the Little River Reservoir echoes wilderness, history, and modern life. A fragment that resonates with memories I own of tree and water, bird and brush:

. . .
The trail I follow is spidered and rocky,
flooded by a dove's call, a woodpecker's knocking.
Rain puddles plate it with light of another century.
The shadow who walks before me wears the hat-silhouette
of a farmer. Wind seethes the pine grove from long ago,
suggesting a way beside. Through the clearing, I first see
the ruin of their living: the cedars, the blackberry tangle,
the weed-wrapped timbers --- the shade tree for workers,
so old, these recently seeded pines around seem
temporary as yesterday's newspapers. The forested
gully widens into a sunken road.
The crows' raucous ironies confirm its depth,
its difference of perspective. Struggling for breath,
I clamber from this great trench, that leads
past the Civil War. I switch path left,
toward a distant chainsaw's snore and rumble.

But I don't wake yet; the slant down
toward the river hushes the modern sounds.
February sun glitters colder on needles of saplings ---
yellow-green, the color they've always been.
Then the horizon drives wedges of blue in between trees
all the way to the ground. Land falls away
to the North Fork, green water slow here as I come nearer.
. . .

(see also CaliforniaSherpa (27 May 2000), LyingVerses (15 Mar 2001), IambicHonesty3 (6 May 2001), TorreyPines (5 Sep 2001), RockCreekTrail (31 May 2002), NormanstoneTrail (20 Dec 2002), AnacostiaTributaries (28 Jan 2003), ForestPrimevalPedestrian (9 May 2003), NorwottuckRailTrail (9 Aug 2003), HAT Run 2004 (2 Apr 2004), ... )

TopicPoetry - TopicLiterature - TopicRunning - 2004-04-08

(correlates: PresentTension, NewPlace, Writer's Almanac, ...)