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James Kimbrell

Allen’s Lake

It was the window I remember, and the moment

Before jumping to the woodpile and white grass.

It’s the blue breath of palominos

And the swinging gable-light, the frozen stubble

Against my wrists each night I crawled

Under the gate.  And once, where the waves lipped


The rotted dock rafters, though I’d been warned,

I climbed out on the last slim beam

That jutted high across the water.  Boots slick

against the frost-crystalled edges, I tightrope

stepped at least ten feet, and stopped there…

From that height, close to the star-bleared


Pine tips, I felt that lake take me into account.

I was another far object steeped

In the slow mist, a sound gathered together

Past a crooked beach of bank mulch

And snapped sticks, a catch

In the half-whistle of oaks.  This was years


Before I’d seen how easily a body could get lost

In that mud-stumped, Hind’s County cold,

Or how old saw-toothed boards

Are bridges over bones that sink

To the bottom of winter.  I stood there,

Shivering, five minutes of luck, confident


That even falling could last forever.  Arms scarecrowed

For balance, I listened in my careful

Backtracking to the wind

Tumble into a north-facing gust, white ribs

Of moon breaking on the water, one layer

Of light coming down,

                              one layer of light slipping under.



Mt. Pisgah

It was the middle of the night and I had lived
A long time with that country, with the hay
Rakes and rock paths and the beam bridge
Above the snake-thick waters. It was
The middle of the night so far into the field
The deer began not to notice the moons
In the shallow bean row puddles. That's how dark
Fell over the road that led into town and kept us
All from moving. Still, when the train passed,
Milk shook in its bucket and the earth sank
In a little. So each year when the corn shrank
Back to stubble, the mud strewn with husks,
More than anything silence grew tall there
Between the kitchen window and the shed's
Roof and the one note rust made in the stuck
Weather vane, in the rooster holding north.


-from The Gatehouse Heaven 

BIO: James Kimbrell, Associate Professor, Ph.D., University of Missouri-Columbia, MFA, University of Virginia, M.A., Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, specializes in poetry. He has been the recipient of the Whiting Writer's Award, the Ruth Lilly Fellowship, the "Discovery"/The Nation Award, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, and has twice received the Academy of American Poets Prize. Recent poems, reviews and translations have appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Poetry, Field, Fence, The Nation, Prairie Schooner, The Boston Book Review, American Poetry: The Next Generation, and The Bread Loaf Anthology of New American Poets. He recently received a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry. His first collection of poetry,The Gatehouse Heaven, was published in 1998.

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