“Nightmare, Revised” by William Wright

William Wright


Now it is not a man pinned eviscerated

to a barn door and stretched mothlike
to show his brisket,

the drying jewels of his guts
and his teeth red-tinged, eyes
scappled bald. Now it is

not a plum-colored sky over
foothills of ruined chimneys,
the world forever October.

Instead, I stand in a field where there is no
barn, and the pinned man, my father,
has been let down, sewn

back to life: He walks through his home,
loneliness his dark carapace.
His mother lies in an oak box

in a South Carolina graveyard. By now
her eyes are fused and sunken. By now her mouth
is a leather smudge. She wanted cremation

but the family would not have it.
The bones of her fingers poke through skin—
The moon emerges. The smell

of smoke blooms on the sweet-sharp air,
and I feel a joy under the thin arbor
of passing clouds. Stars shimmer,

exact. I feel a joy, because there is no secret
order of moth or plum, chimney
or bone, only the pungent fact

that somewhere, somewhere beyond
my sight, a fire burns part of this
land gone, gone.

from Rattle #39, Spring 2013
Tribute to Southern Poets


William Wright (Georgia): “Three moments, separated by about two years in my late teens, induced me into poetry. The first: My parents divorced. The second: I stole a book called The Made Thing: A Contemporary Anthology of Southern Poetry from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts, and within that book, Robert Penn Warren, James Dickey, and Charles Wright stunned me into the beauty that words could make. The third: In mid-winter of 1999, I walked a peach orchard at night, alone, and when I reached mid-field, I looked over my shoulder toward distant house windows—some of them my own. They looked like dying embers. The night was clear enough to see the Milky Way, and that was the nearest I’d ever felt to Lorca’s duende, to the notion of something dwelling around or within me that was unutterably and indescribably beautiful, but also freighted with a sense of mortality. Writing poetry is my attempt to re-create that feeling, whether for myself or for others—to recapture the epiphany.” (web)

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