Monday, April 2, 2012

National Poetry Month: Anne Clinard Barnhill

National Poetry Month 2012, Day 2

Anne Barnhill dropped by City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC a few weeks back to talk about her new novel, At the Mercy of the Queen.  Her poetry chapbook titled Coal, Baby had not been released yet.  It was waiting in the wings.  Now it has flown out into the world, or soon will be, and I can feature some of the poems on its pages to celebrate National Poetry Month.   
If you go to Anne's website, you'll find out more about her, but for starters, here's her short biography.

"Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published arti cles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like grow ing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Cre ative Writing from the Uni ver sity of North Carolina at Wilming ton. Besides writ ing, she also enjoys teaching, conducting writing work shops and seminars to enhance creativity." 

The Angel of Appalachia Speaks

Awaken the trees.
Call the clouds to collect themselves
and march the mountains to the sea.

Gather starbuds.
Shepherd every skittering thing—
beetle, grub, spider, snake—
all the crawling ones of the earth.
Lead them to the water.

The birds of the air
and the creatures of the deeps—
starfish and kingfisher
catbird and calico
deer and panther—
bring them.

Deliver the children of dust,
the bare, two-legged ones.
Call all to the banks of oblivion--
the air itself and the sad, sad rivers,
boulders and shattered rocks,
fragmented fossils and live veins of coal--
direct them to the blistering waters.

There, they will weep together
for all that is lost.

After  they have re-salted the earth with their tears, 
after they can no longer stand,
they will sink until their cheeks press against the pebbled bank
and their bones feel the pull of naked earth.

Snow Angel

The first snow made us light-hearted,
hopeful the inches would pile up.
When they did, you bundled me, yourself, too.
Up King’s Hill we tramped,
our sleds trailing us, slow as mules.

Atop, we warmed stiff mittens
over the garbage-can fire.
I lay my heart against the wooden slats—
the thudding, a quick comfort—
You pushed me off, down

Cold wind in my nose, ice pricks on my cheeks—
Houses, legs, bushes, dogs—
My belly skirting snow piles—
Finally, the slow glide to safety,
you close behind.

Old Bob Gaul

I saw him often on our one-horse Main,
smelling of dirty socks, sour wine, urine.
Beneath his unzipped fly
it hung, one eye staring, a dead fish.
Sweet snow danced on his matted hair,
that hatless head a roost for pigeons.

Schoolboys taunted him while he gathered 
his harvest of coke bottles.
Grown-ups gave him a wide berth
and matched his averted stare.
In winter, he came to church,
his back pew in ready reserve.
He hunkered into it
like a scolded dog.

Rumor swore he’s been a pianist,
some young Mozart gone awry.
Hard to believe there’d been that kind of light
in his red, dead-panned eyes.

Once, at midnight, on a back-road haunt,
far from any place I’d been,
in the clearing, a one-room shack--
his shadow bent low to the concert grand,
the air rippled mountain arpeggios,
thrilled wild with thundering chords
crashed against granite peaks.

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