Poems: New and Selected
Poems: New and Selected
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A collection of haunting lyricism that evokes the beauty and hardship of the rural South, by a revered American master of letters—the award-winning, bestselling author of the novels Serena, Something Rich and Strange, and Above the Waterfall.
In this incandescent, profound, and accessible collection, beloved and award-winning poet, novelist, and short-story writer Ron Rash vividly channels the rhythms of life in Appalachia, deftly capturing the panoply of individuals who are its heart and soul—men and women inured to misfortune and hard times yet defined by tremendous fortitude, resilience, and a fierce sense of community.
In precise, supple language that swerves from the stark to the luminous, Rash richly describes the splendor of the natural landscape and poignantly renders the lives of those dependent on its bounty—in cotton mills and tobacco fields, farmlands and forests. The haunting memories and shared histories of these people—their rituals and traditions—animate this land, and are celebrated in Rash’s crystalline, intensely imagined verse.
With an eye for the surprising and vivid detail, Ron Rash powerfully captures the sorrows and exaltations of this wondrous world he knows intimately. Illuminating and indelible, Poems demonstrates his rich talents and confirms his legacy as a standard-bearer for the literature of the American South.
in the fields. They’d say that every year. ACCIDENT We were running speed frames. Mary knew those flyers could snatch an apron off or break a bone like a twig given half a chance. But her baby had been sick, kept her awake three nights in a row. She was so tired she barely kept her head up. When she didn’t those flyers grabbed her hair, would not let go until her scalp came too. I guess she screamed though who could hear her over the machines. I never knew a body held so much blood,
dawnlight peaked landrise, belts and steps became sudden contrails from planets circling the sun’s blaze, planets disguised with cow hide, the furrowed skin of an old woman’s visage. SLEEPWALKING Strange how I never once woke in a hall, on a porch step, but always outside, bare feet slick with dew-grass, the house deeper shadow, while above the moon leaned its round shoulder on a white oak’s limbs, stars spread skyward like fistfuls of jacks. Rising as if from water was the way
life lies elsewhere some whisper inside urges another destination, as if that unburned hand were raised in welcome, still might lead me to another state marked by no human boundary, where my inarticulate heart might finally find voice in words cured by fire, water. THE WOLVES IN THE ASHEVILLE ZOO Fog grazing among the trees, and they herd with it, become whispers of movement until one bares its throat, then silence as though pausing for answer from cliff cave or laurel den vacant
of two lives that needed to fall forever away in a reservoir so vast it could bury a valley. THE MEN WHO RAISED THE DEAD If they had hair it was gray, the backs of their hands wormy currents of blue veins, old men the undertaker believed had already lost too much to the earth to be bothered by what they found, didn’t find, brought there that May afternoon dogwood trees bloomed like white wreaths across Jocassee’s valley. They took their time, sought the shade when they tired, let
could not, whose vocabulary of verb and noun never took root, grew sentences, as afflicted, yet also blessed in one way always significant. Skill with saw, guitar or horse, a strong back, pleasing face or just a kind disposition would be enough. Families back then would wait for years for that one talent to come to light, confirming the attentive eye, the marked child marked with God’s favor. THE PREACHER IS CALLED TO TESTIFY FOR THE ACCUSED Before a just Lord raised this world’s