by William Wright

I sometimes fall into visions where the Earth
opens, and far underground, beneath the shallow dead
and the waterline, beneath any trace of life,

the world is undone, aortal and blistering,
glowing and darkening, the Hadean palpitant
center. Then, quickly, like human utterance

played backwards to clipped silence,
the world sews its wound, and all the valleys
and rivers lean again into their time-worn complexities,

flourish and die, flourish and die. Sometimes it’s best
to let the dream have its say and to snuff it to silence.
Sometimes it’s best to outpace the tenacious ghost

of the unconscious, lest it follow you through days.
What then is a simple solace? The stand of light
between the trees? Perhaps I love the oaks

no matter where I am—on this mountain,
in a city park, or near the stream
because I cannot endure the vision

of the buried body of my grandfather—a man
I could not love for his constant mantras
about the sinful and the end. His home was nearly pitch black

even on sunny days, any light a leaking toxin.
The only comfort he found was walking fields
in the pre-dawn halflight, always looking down, down,

for arrowheads and bannerstones, quartz drills,
old pipes and bottles, some evidence that he moved
and lived, that others had gone, cast off their mundane

legacies. When I was seven, he reminded me I was
going to die. His visions chased and claimed him,
buried him early. Perhaps that’s why the tallness

of oaks, their susurrus glittering
through the light, shackles me with awe,
a love I haven’t learned to name.

I did not always live so high:
Once, miles down this ridge and into the piedmont,
I had a hound that dug deep into the loam,

crazed, wide-eyed. When he had bloodied his paws
and ripped roots asunder, he found what he’d been
after: a conch shell in perfect shape, a white spiral

with pink filigree. We were hundreds of miles
from any sea. The hound now lies in a midden
in those same woods, where for years red sumac thrived

out of him, his innards and bone
brisket, the deepening caverns of his eyes.

WILLIAM WRIGHT is author of seven collections of poetry: four full length books, including Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press, forthcoming in spring 2015), Night Field Anecdote(Louisiana Literature Press, 2011), Bledsoe (Texas Review Press, 2011), and Dark Orchard(Texas Review Press, 2005, winner of the Breakthrough Poetry Prize). Wright’s chapbooks are Sleep Paralysis (Stepping Stones Press, 2012, Winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Prize, selected by Kwame Dawes), Xylem & Heartwood (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and The Ghost Narratives (Finishing Line). Wright is Series Editor and Volume Co-editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology, a multivolume series celebrating contemporary writing of the American South, published by Texas Review Press. Additionally Wright serves as Assistant Editor for Shenandoah, translates German poetry, and is editing three volumes, including Hard Lines: Rough South Poetry (with Daniel Cross Turner). Wright won the 2012 Porter Fleming Prize in Literature. Wright has recently published in The Kenyon Review, Oxford American, The Antioch Review, Shenandoah, and Southern Poetry Review.