I Remember the Night Peaceful
(For my Aunt, that she finds peace).
I remember the night peaceful before it broke,
before the constellations cracked and split
in empty, white-blue shards, fogged up with stars,
and the dark dripped in through the runny seams.
When You slipped away, left us with nothing
but a phone call. And my uncle made that
at four am, panic spilling like static
over the line, into my grandma’s dreams.
When dawn broke, even when it shouldn’t have,
the sky still broken, with you in it somewhere,
your mother, my grandparents, that silence.
My uncle, playing life, spilling angel tears
over us, forgotten; Our wet, pale mouths
chewing up that night like pieces of glass.
Notes on an Autumn Grazing (Encounter)
And so it was I went away to hide
my coward heart among the wild ribs
of the world, where the slow-burning
smokies meet the laconic waves of blue ridge
cradling what is now called America
between an uneasy spine of Pacific Rim.
Where the trees can still grow as old and tall
as the names that were stolen from them.
But I am not writing to tell you about
the irises. Heavy-lidded, violent eyed glancing
up from their weave of kudzu vines. Hard
spined seeds, newly unraveled squirrels
cloistered away by the unseen red or grey foxes
as if in a visceral opera of us, sluicing
the late hours with acts of hunger, snapping
twigs. No, just a certain fawn. Grazing
over a flat clearing stubbled over with Dutch
clover and a handful of obscure graves
deep in the late stages of collapsing.
Because she was defiantly innocent unbearably
beautiful, holding something there between us
sharp and fluid and intangible as the grasses blurred
into an indistinct geometry by the wind. Something
hollowed clean beneath the weight of her breathing,
somehow aware of the pointlessness of running
ridiculous as the spaces left encapsulated
between the headstones and the blackening dirt.
She bowed at a slight arch, acknowledging
maybe something relentless or profound
following her deeper into the elms, snaked up
alongside the scraggly birch. A difficult thing
greater than predator’s courage, or the sun
reaching sunset, necessary and untouchable,
spinning oblivious to me the deer or twilight
emptying over the dying clover, spilling
the dark coral of November shadows over
the Autumn quiet. This is the poem I started
writing knowing there would be no end. Because
I am still bracing against the crust of that fawn’s
stare, the eyes button sized river stones polished
to a state of woundedness. A state of perpetual
martyrdom that still vibrates at every traffic
light car horn falling meteor shower late December
snow swaddled baby circuit walk taken to keep
the world shuttering on towards the profound.
I have been asked many times,
By many different people, why
I don’t brush my hair. I don’t.
Brush my hair, that is – I don’t
Even own a brush for that purpose.
And one gets a lot of looks, and
Quite a lot of questions, looking
Like That, walking like such,
Wearing that hair around like that.
So, in answer to the unasked questions,
I wear my hair like this, stuck-
Up like quills, or Don King, or
Kraimer, because I’ve heard
It picks up stronger radio signals
That way. Sometimes, I can
Quote whole advertisements
In Spanish (Which I don’t speak,
as a principle) just by blinking,
And turning in a thirty degree
Angle to the constellation Scorpio.
I wear it like this because it’s easy,
And economical, not owning any
Brushes. In fact, with what I’ve saved
On brushes, I’ve bought several bottles
Of Pedigree Shampoo, a fine razor, and
A small, leaf-shaped island in the Caimans,
A taupe-blue school of minnows
That swim beside my bay, with a few
Nets of coral glowing in starburst
Colors under the sparkling, warmly
Undulating waves, and a man,
Named Wade, who does all my
Landscaping, to feed his two daughters
And his drug habit. I wear my hair
Like this because a girl, once, whose
Number I did not get, said that
I looked like a singer, or actor that I
Should have known and have forgotten.
I wear my hair like this because I’ve
Heard God likes it longer, and the lady
At the public library reception desk
With the condor eyes and the hair
Trapped back behind her head in a
Bulbus, bifurcated hay bale didn’t.
I wear it like this because the
Harvard graduates don’t, and the
Harvard dropouts don’t, and neither
Does the grim, political grandfather,
Sitting by his kitchen table, reading
The Times or The Post. I wear it like
This because the Punks don’t, and the
Conservatives don’t, and the frat boys
Don’t, and neither does the Pope, or
The Devil, or the tax collectors, or
The fishermen, the Nazis, the Pro
War strikers, the anti-everything
Protesters, public display artists,
Nudist colonizers, social media
Swamis, wiz-tech gurus, new age
Mystics, race car drivers or male
Models, and I am much too much
Of all of those to decide on a cut.
So I think it’s kinda cool stuck up
There like that. Sometimes, I think
It makes me look a little taller.
Tanner Howard is an emerging writer currently enrolled in Georgia College and State University. He has had work published in Penultimate Peanut, The Peacocks Feet and Porch Critters, and has won the Academy of American Poets’ Student Poetry Prize. He loves camping, hiking, heavy music and his boxer Pinky.