“What Happens in Church” by Brent Terry

Brent Terry


for Robert Wilcox, 3/9/1939–11/29/2017

Another mudfunked Sunday, singletrack tripping
nine miles through the leafdeep and flat
fall light, not tumbling, somehow, over rocks
or roots, lungs sucking sweet oxygen
from the crystal, heart thundering red diatribes
the cardinals marry their carols to.
Your head is mostly empty, but your legs are full
of zoom, so you hurdle without thinking
the fallen body of a birch, which Saturday late
in a carnival of wind, gave up its forever bending
and finally went for broke. You have no idea
if it fell in a tirade of roots ripping, its knotted
torso torn from glacial till, or if slipping
from soil, it let go this earth with a satisfied sigh.
You know only that you’ll never speak
the language of softwoods. You’ll never ease
the grieving of worms. The mushrooms build
their bookshelves where birch bark used to be,
recite the natural histories with tongues
of rot and flame. Leaves float down in a ringing
of bells that only the salamanders can hear.
You pluck one from the breeze, hold it to your ear.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Tribute to Athlete Poets


Brent Terry: “I have been a runner since I was fifteen. For 40 years, laying down a patter of footfalls on asphalt, grass, or the soft and blessed dirt has been, as Eliot said, the coffee spoon of my days. I ran competitively in high school, college, and after, even competing professionally for a bit in my mid- and late-twenties. For years I celebrated each Thanksgiving and Christmas with a twenty-mile jaunt through still sleeping neighborhoods or drift-encrusted countryside. Birthdays were celebrated on the roads with friends, followed by beer and pizza. Nearly every occasion, big or small, has been marked by a run. Running brings treasured stretches of solitude: interludes of introspection and moments of slack-jawed wonder. It allows my friends and I to play like children again. Once upon a time I was a runner who wrote. Now I am most definitely a writer who runs. Either way, writing and running have always been married. The solitude provided by running gives poems time to form, shakes them loose and sets them tumbling around my brain. Oftentimes the rhythms of a run become the rhythms of the poem, the sights and sounds of a run become the images and songs of the poem. And the run offers escape from the desk, the seeming dead end of an uncooperative line. Running brings, as it always has, an animal joy, sense of freedom I have never found anywhere else, and I bring that animal, drunk on blood and freedom, home, where it continues to frolic and pounce, to sniff and howl from the white expanse of the page.”

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