It is an honor to receive a fellowship from the NEA. It is often difficult for me to find time to write, and since I compose very slowly, piecing poems together can be a long and sometimes frustrating endeavor. With the fellowship's support, I have the opportunity to get away from work to devote more time solely to writing. I am simply delighted to have this opportunity to focus on my work. I'm grateful.
but now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
You've heard it before, I'm sure,
how the vault of heaven will strew its vital gold
a thousand pieces, bright as an angel's gown
in the sweet, consummate hour
when all that the saints and prophets have foretold
comes true: the dead raised up, each mortal coil
wound firm on the spindled bone,
and love at last unbounded by despair
or the grave confines of soil.
Rumors have often bred
in choir lofts, barber shops, on the front steps
of the local five and dime--how Pee Wee Gaskins,
now locked in his cell, was said
to have killed at least a hundred, how the tulips
on the church lawn one morning were seen to blaze
gold with the lucent skins
of five copperheads: till everyone agreed
these were the final days.
Or it seemed that summer
when floodtides razed the coast. You've read, of course,
that flesh is bare grain, like unto a seed,
that no one knows the hour
of the Lord's design--but storm winds gathered force,
blasting the rain against the window glass,
steeping the lawns to mud,
and even those of us who lived this far
inland could hear the toss
and whiplash of tall pines,
steeples plucked from churches, the hiss of downed wire.
Still, who could have predicted what we'd wake to?
Not even Pee Wee Gaskins
brooding over his strangled girls could conjure
what lay in the light that gilded one soaked field,
lay strewn beneath a rainbow
spanning the far pasture when the last rains
hushed. It was not the world
we hoped for. There they were,
the dead returned as we had never known them
in life, some kneeling against a fallen tree
or face down in the water,
washed from the graves to constitute their kingdom;
and, sun-touched near the pasture's edge--O Death
where is thy victory,
thy sting?--an infant swaddled in coils of fence wire,
snagged on a harrow's teeth.