Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I've been a David Huddle admirer for years now, and no, that's not David in the photo above.  It's one he emailed me, in honor of the bird that has figured prominently in the  poems below.   I'm partial to his poetry, but he's also a highly regarded fiction writer, essayist,  and, I'd wager, a memorable teacher.  I was able to meet him five years ago at the anniversary Celebration of the Emory & Henry Appalachian Writers festival, at which time he was teaching in Vermont.  He's a mountain man, though, a Virginia mountain man, and for the past couple of years he's been teaching at Hollins College, his title being Distinguished Visiting Professor of Creative Writing.   

He has published seventeen books of fiction, poetry, and essays. His novel The Story of a Million Years (Houghton Mifflin, 1999) was named a Distinguished Book of the Year by Esquire and a best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times Book Review. In 2012, LSU Press will publish his seventh poetry collection, Black Snake at the Family Reunion, from which the following poems are lifted.  ( I'm justifiably proud that the two of us will have our  books coming out at the same time-early fall-- from the same publisher! )

Weather Report

The vultures of this landscape came to call 
this morning--found a bare-limbed tree outside
my kitchen window, settled in & held
my gaze, big tar blobs against a milky sky:
We understand you, their presence informed me,
And I you, I told them in silence.
                                            Right now 
this day can’t make up its mind--sun’s half out
but rain’s in those clouds.  If it’s that cold wind-
driven stuff that swats your eyes like a drink 
full of crushed ice thrown in your face, I’ll stay
indoors, count my failures & petty crimes,
loathe my life, and completely understand 
why friends and loved ones keep their distance.
The barometer yo-yos my mental state--
one day I’m a happy old dude, kitchen 
dancer, car-driving harmonizer, hilltop 
walker delighted by the world.
                                              Next day 
it’s the big not, the mega-never.  And where
are you breeze-blown death birds now that I need you?
This mean rain’s rotting the starch right out of me.
Come down from your perch, my beauties, I’m 
opening doors and windows, I’m looking for snacks
in the back of the fridge.  Here--try roosting 
on this chair back.  Please just sit with me 
around my table.  I’ll hold up both ends 
of our conversation.  It’s like forever
I’ve wanted to talk to you.  Here--let me 
turn off these lights--I know you like the dark.  

(first published in The New Yorker)

Hilltop Sonnet

Who visits this high meadow, lawn of the dead,
 to see blue and bluer mountains that rise
  out of the west; to converse with the crows,
   great-winged turkey buzzards, black kites riding
    thermals in seamless silence; to greet deer
     here at twilight grazing near the wood’s edge;
      to scare the huge groundhog that lives inside
       the brick-walled graveyard: Who moves through this     space?

       A yellow dog leading a deaf old man 
      who likes to talk, a girl and her boyfriend
     who sit atop her car’s roof murmuring
    quietly, two off-leash labs ignoring
   their shouting owner, a policeman who 
  parks up here to feel lonely, guarding the wind.

Roanoke Pastorale

Cardinal, goldfinch, titmouse, turkey buzzard--
dear companions of my afternoons--
above this field, high clouds dream of blizzards

to snow me in till spring ends my solitude.
Sober’s my binge now, nature my saloon. 
Wren, mourning dove, house finch, turkey buzzard--

for your entertainment, I sing the words
of old fifties songs, use baby talk, croon
as I walk the field beneath great blizzard-

dreaming clouds.  You gaudy pretties, sweet birds
of my senior years--my later’s my soon.
Catbirds flit through cedars in the graveyard, 

turkey buzzards swirl their patterns overhead,
across the mountainside sunlight bows a tune 
rising to blue eternity but heard

by the heron fishing the creek, wizard
of stillness, creature designed by the moon.
Bluebird, jay, chipping sparrow, turkey buzzard,
clouds, and field--I dream this life, walk this world.

(first published in The New Yorker)

Photo by Anne Noble


  1. Oh,Kay, thanks for sharing these poems. I feel them in my soul. I like this poet.
    I have always been captivated by crows, turkey buzzards soaring, blue herons, flocks of black birds of all kinds.

  2. Thank you for sharing Mr. Huddle's beautiful work; I'd heard of him, but never read him. Until now.

  3. Julia Nunnally DuncanApril 20, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    David is indeed a great teacher as well as a wonderful poet. I had the honor of being his student years ago in Warren Wilson College's MFA Program. David was the first person to make me think in terms of writing about my own experiences, my own life. For that I will always be grateful. Thanks for sharing his work, Kay.

  4. Just a moment to say thanks. I have wanted to find a copy of Weather Report for a long time and was grateful you had it for me.