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Jeff Newberry



Mention them by name only if you must.

Give them death’s privacy. Let them be

no more than ghosted syllables, word-


shapes. Talk about their hands, the lined

palms, a lifeline that branches to anabranch

and disappears. Remember veined wrists,


purple and thin as pine saplings. Resist

the urge to turn those lines to words.

Remember instead aftershave and lilac


or alcohol and sweat, the presence they left

behind. Do not quote the dead. Their words

will not resurrect them. Instead, recall


only the timbre of a voice, how it brought

you here, now. You grunt and gasp at meaning,

a traveler in some foreign land, each ached


sentence a muted plea. The natives could

take you for dumb. They pity you instead.




Lord, I don’t need a cork

to know when the line is tight.

Just give me the muddy water’s

ripple, the stillness


broken my something swift

deep beneath. I’m rooted

like a slash pine trunk,

sunk deep into this sandy soil.


Though mayflies and gnats

haze, I’m faithful.

Keep that bait in the water,

my father once taught me.


You never know the life

below. You never see

the channel cat’s sleek

juke and turn—how he eyes


the cricket just to brush

against it, to dare the lip-sunk

hook, the tugging from above,

the promise to drag him into the light.



                  --Lang Newberry (1939-1990)


It looked like a stunted orange tree

in our backyard, the waxy leaves

shining in sunlight, glistening after rain,

tiny fruit the size of thumb’s fat tip.


My father picked them by the bowl

and ate them at the kitchen table.

Once, I popped one into my mouth,

the bite so sour tears burned by eyes,


the taste so sharp I couldn’t see

how he chewed them with a smile.

My thoughts of him have been

like that: the tart sting that sears


the tongue and blurs my vision,

the fruit I pick although I know

it will sour my mouth. I take a bite

because I like to taste the burn.

-from How to Talk about the Dead, (forthcoming from Red Hawk Publications), selected by Assistant Editor, Karen Carr

Jeff Newberry tells stories in poetry and prose.  A native of the Florida Gulf Coast, he  is an essayist, fiction writer, and a poet. His most recent book is  a collaboration with the poet Justin Evans, a collection of epistolary poems entitled Cross Country (WordTech Editions 2019). He is the author of the novel A Stairway to the Sea (Pulpwood Press), the poetry collection Brackish (Aldrich Press) and the chapbook A Visible Sign (Finishing Line ). With fellow Gulf Coast native, Brent House, he is the co-editor of the anthology The Gulf Stream:  Poems of the Gulf Coast (Snake Nation Press).  He reviews books for The Florida Review ​and other publications. 

Newberry's writing has appeared in a variety of  print and online journals, including The American Journal of Poetry, Connotations, Florida Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Cortland Review, Chattahoochee Review, North American Review, Memorious, Saw Palm:  Florida Literature and Art, Southeast Review, Sweet:  A Literary Confection and Waccamaw:  A Journal of Contemporary Literature. He has served on the faculty of the prestigious Sanibel Island Writers Conference and given talks and led panels at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference (AWP), the Flannery O'Connor and Other Georgia Writers Conference, The Conference on Christianity and Literature, The Florida Literary Arts Coalition's Other Words Conference, the Southeastern Writers Association Conference, and the Gulf Coast Association of Creative Writing Teachers Conference. The recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, he teaches in Writing and Communication Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where he lives with his wife, Heather, and his two children, Ben and Madi.  

Newberry earned his BA and MA in English from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, where as a graduate student he served as the managing editor of Panhandler. He holds a PhD from the University of Georgia.

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