Debra's new book can be found at Jacar Press's website--www.jacarpress.com. Jacar promises to become one of the South's most important small presses.
We're Never ReadyHere we gather,
motley, at the wake.
This one hasn’t had her roots
touched up. That one’s stuffed
into his best suit coat.
One has black grease under his fingernails.
Another teeters on too-high heels
saying Jesus, Jesus—
We gather brassy,
to witness this body—
yellow rose on blue lapel,
fresh haircut, no necktie—
his body without his laugh,
his breath, the pain.
Autumnal EquinoxSugar maples blaze at sunset;
leaves swoop and skirt
the chilling wind like chimney swifts.
A boy leaps into leaves,
calls to a neighbor’s Irish red,
as light falls, a cat’s white shadow,
on his grandmother’s lap.
Her hands rest there,
her grandmother’s hands,
the same boniness of wrist and knuckle,
dry fingers nearly flammable in the smoky air.
She smells ripe pears
and feels her body drawn
toward the darkness that rolls in
earlier each day.
Heat and light retreat,
and evening covers everything
except the boy, whose hair shines
silky silver light
as he tosses armfuls of color
upward, like sparks.
Susan Lefler has been in several of my workshops, which means I'm by no means objective when it comes to her work. I've watched her grow over the years into a writer who knows her material and can work with it without flinching, asking the tough questions, lowering the windlass at the well, as Seamus Heaney has described the poet's growth. Her first collection, Rendering the Bones, comes fully rendered itself, a mature poet's voice reaching out to us.
Charlie Hughes has made Wind Publications a treasure trove of some of the best poetry being published in the South. Visit his site--www.windpub.com--to view his catalog. Charlie is a fine poet himself and a longtime supporter of Appalachian and Southern writing.
Rendering the Bones
The trouble with grief,
I think as I boil the bones,
is that you grow accustomed to it.
Empty space, where all you have left
is old dry bones.
At the rest home where my father lives,
his neighbors pedal their wheeled chairs like
little boats along the halls, their eyes empty
as hooked fish. These old ones know
dry bones don’t live.
Against her shriveled breast,
an old woman clutches her plastic doll,
touches its cheek and croons to it.
Her reedy cry follows me down
the narrow hallways of our loss
where I hear her again,
as I stand at my stove,
clutching my mother’s spoon
in my hands,
rendering the bones.
Analysis of a Perfect Storm
The eye where the wind lies quiet
must be round and smooth as silk pajamas
and very, very still, and those who stand
in its center must rest in its infinite
curve as if held in the arms
of a mother while outside, the wind
gathers. There must be a pupil
in that calm eye to watch in all directions
as winds build toward their dead intent
and the pressure drops. No holy habitation
here, no safety net, no freedom for the guest.
Trapped in a hospital cube, I listen
with my parents to steel voices
while one hope after another collapses,
sucking our breath. Outside, the wind
picks up again and my father stares transfixed,
rehearsing escape routes
even as water rises and the eye