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Wade Redfearn Feb 21
Look what rises out of the sea
a land like a footprint filling with water
devoted sun circling into view, the mist-eater
scalds the coffee *** on the stove
hissing at its hot pedestal
and how much life is before you,
hidden in the bushes.

What are you that you are not changed?

A wet-eyed bird feeds its sharp beak
into the ground and comes up wanting.
The sea is full of chandeliers and sled dogs.
A girl walks, smiling, with an arm around
her dead grandmother, herself young,
and slyly kisses her cheek.

What are you that you are not changed?

All of the bees are dead.
All of the usury has been forgiven.
All eyes meet eyes across the room.
All we want is a mug of cocoa.
We all go on seeking.

What are you that you are not changed?

Joy comes from a bag, where you placed it.
The noise of paper drawn out and carefully flattened
reminds your fingers of their curious dryness.
If it comes from love it must have a source in you.
You are not a character. You are a pearl on a desk.

What are you that you are still here?

A train goes on through the dark,
between ****** old mountains,
foothills, really, and inside
every compartment is its own bowl of amber.
A rattle of track passes through any
foot flat on the ***** carpet.
A little chill. A little peace.
Every passenger reads a book,
and every passenger waits to sleep
with their doors an inch ajar.
Wade Redfearn Sep 2018
The first settlers to the area called the Lumber River Drowning Creek. The river got its name for its dark, swift-moving waters. In 1809, the North Carolina state legislature changed the name of Drowning Creek to the Lumber River. The headwaters are still referred to as Drowning Creek.

Three p.m. on a Sunday.
Anxiously hungry, I stay dry, out of the pool’s cold water,
taking the light, dripping into my pages.
A city with a white face blank as a bust
peers over my shoulder.
Wildflowers on the roads. Planes circle from west,
come down steeply and out of sight.
A pinkness rises in my breast and arms:
wet as the drowned, my eyes sting with sweat.
Over the useless chimneys a bank of cloud piles up.
There is something terrible in the sky, but it keeps breaking.
Another is dead. Fentanyl. Sister of a friend, rarely seen.
A hand reaches everywhere to pass over eyes and mouths.
A glowing wound opens in heaven.
A mirror out of doors draws a gyre of oak seeds no one watches,
in the clear pool now sunless and black as a cypress swamp.

Bitter water freezes the muscles and I am far from shore.
I paddle in the shallows, near the wooden jail.
The water reflects a taut rope,
feet hanging in the breeze singing mercy
at the site of the last public hanging in the state.
A part-white fugitive with an extorted confession,
loved by the poor, dumb enough to get himself captured,
lonely on this side of authority: a world he has never lived in
foisting itself on the world he has -
only now, to steal his drunken life, then gone again.

1871 - Henderson Oxendine, one of the notorious gang of outlaws who for some time have infested Robeson County, N. C., committing ****** and robbery, and otherwise setting defiance to the laws, was hung at Lumberton, on Friday last in the presence of a large assemblage. His execution took place a very few days after his conviction, and his death occurred almost without a struggle.

Today, the town square collapses as if scorched
by the whiskey he drank that morning to still himself,
folds itself up like Amazing Grace is finished.
A plinth is laid
in the shadow of his feet, sticky with pine,
here where the water sickens with roots.
Where the canoe overturned. Where the broken oar floated and fell.
Where the snake lives, and teethes on bark,
waiting for another uncle.

Where the tobacco waves near drying barns rusted like horseshoes
and cotton studs the ground like the cropped hair of the buried.
Where schoolchildren take the afternoon
to trim the kudzu growing between the bodies of slaves.
Where appetite is met with flood and fat
and a clinic for the heart.
Where barges took chips of tar to port,
for money that no one ever saw.

Tar sticks the heel but isn’t courage.
Tar seals the hulls -
binds the planks -
builds the road.
Tar, fiery on the tongue, heavy as bad blood in the family -
dead to glue the dead together to secure the living.
Tar on the roofs, pouring heat.
Tar is a dark brown or black viscous liquid of hydrocarbons and free carbon,
obtained from a wide variety of organic materials
through destructive distillation.
Tar in the lungs will one day go as hard as a five-cent candy.

Liberty Food Mart
Cheapest Prices on Cigarettes
Parliament $22.50/carton
Marlboro $27.50/carton

The white-bibbed slaughterhouse Hmong hunch down the steps
of an old school bus with no air conditioner,
rush into the cool of the supermarket.
They pick clean the vegetables, flee with woven bags bulging.
What were they promised?
Air conditioning.
And what did they receive?
Chickenshit on the wind; a dead river they can't understand
with a name it gained from killing.

Truth:
A man was flung onto a fencepost and died in a front yard down the street.
A girl with a grudge in her eyes slipped a razorblade from her teeth and ended recess.
I once saw an Indian murdered for stealing a twelve-foot ladder.
The red line indicating heart disease grows higher and higher.
The red line indicating cardiovascular mortality grows higher and higher.
The red line indicating motor vehicle deaths grows higher and higher.
I burn with the desire to leave.

The stories make us full baskets of dark. No death troubles me.
Not the girl's blood, inert, tickled by opiates,
not the masked arson of the law;
not the smell of drywall as it rots,
or the door of the safe falling from its hinges,
or the chassis of cars, airborne over the rise by the planetarium,
three classmates plunging wide-eyed in the river’s icy arc –
absent from prom, still struggling to free themselves from their seatbelts -
the gunsmoke at the home invasion,
the tenement bisected by flood,
the cattle lowing, gelded
by agriculture students on a field trip.

The air contains skin and mud.
The galvanized barns, long empty, cough up
their dust of rotten feed, dry tobacco.
Men kneel in the tilled rows,
to pick up nails off the ground
still splashed with the blood of their makers.

You Never Sausage a Place
(You’re Always a ****** at Pedro’s!)
South of the Border – Fireworks, Motel & Rides
Exit 9: 10mi.

Drunkards in Dickies will tell you the roads are straight enough
that the drive home will not bend away from them.
Look in the woods to see by lamplight
two girls filling each other's mouths with smoke.
Hear a friendly command:
boys loosening a tire, stuck in the gut of a dog.
Turn on the radio between towns of two thousand
and hear the tiny voice of an AM preacher,
sharing the airwaves of country dark
with some chords plucked from a guitar.
Taste this water thick with tannin
and tell me that trees do not feel pain.
I would be a mausoleum for these thousands
if I only had the room.

I sealed myself against the flood.
Bodies knock against my eaves:
a clutch of cats drowned in a crawlspace,
an old woman bereft with a vase of pennies,
her dead son in her living room costumed as the black Jesus,
the ***** oil of a Chinese restaurant
dancing on top of black water.
A flow gauge spins its tin wheel
endlessly above the bloated dead,
and I will pretend not to be sick at dinner.

Misery now, a struggle ahead for Robeson County after flooding from Hurricane Matthew
LUMBERTON
After years of things leaving Robeson County – manufacturing plants, jobs, payrolls, people – something finally came in, and what was it but more misery?

I said a prayer to the city:
make me a figure in a figure,
solvent, owed and owing.
Take my jute sacks of wristbones,
my sheaves and sheaves of fealty,
the smell of the forest from my feet.
Weigh me only by my purse.
A slim woman with a college degree,
a rented room without the black wings
of palmetto roaches fleeing the damp:
I saw the calm white towers and subscribed.
No ingrate, I saved a space for the lost.
They filled it once, twice, and kept on,
eating greasy flesh straight from the bone,
craning their heads to ask a prayer for them instead.

Downtown later in the easy dark,
three college boys in foam cowboy hats shout in poor Spanish.
They press into the night and the night presses into them.
They will go home when they have to.
Under the bridge lit in violet,
a folding chair is draped in a ***** blanket.
A grubby pair of tennis shoes lay beneath, no feet inside.
Iced tea seeps from a chewed cup.
I pass a bar lit like Christmas.
A mute and pretty face full of indoor light
makes a promise I see through a window.
I pay obscene rents to find out if it is true,
in this nation tied together with gallows-rope,
thumbing its codex of virtues.
Considering this just recently got rejected and I'm free to publish it, and also considering that the town this poem describes is subject once again to a deluge whose damage promises to be worse than before, it seemed like a suitable time to post it. If you've enjoyed it, please think about making a small donation to the North Carolina Disaster Relief Fund at the URL below:
https://governor.nc.gov/donate-florence-recovery
Wade Redfearn Aug 2018
A bill becomes a law through a process not unlike wet clay curing in the sun, seasonal labor filling the fields in springtime, a drop of sweat absorbed thirstily into a towel, a stain spreading across a tablecloth.

A bill becomes a law eventually, but often, not in time. A bill often fails on the floor, as do some people, as does, just as often,
the attempt to revive them. The attempt looks an awful lot
like a senator's face, energetic and gray and doomed and
looking for any advantage
when the needed advantage is in the ether
and still immaterial until the tenth of February.

I notice the bumper stickers, and I've deputized a Google Alert
to tell me that the popular mass is wakening.
I can also tell when it yawns,
or prods a rib for a pain that wasn't there yesterday.
I can tell when the popular mass has slept funny.
I can tell when it would rather not wake up at all
but the light is streaming in through the window
and the house is full of the sound of the dishwasher.

Pain on both sides, in both ribs, ignored
because sometimes it just happens - pain,
that is - and is a part of getting older,
like how you can't put peppers in your chili anymore
now that they don't grow on this side of the planet,
and there's nobody left to tend them.

I would like somebody to tend me, too,
but the law that sanctions that workforce
is still in committee, and mired in a dispute
about who deserves love.

This one goes out to all of those lying on their kitchen floor
once everyone is out of the house, lifting their legs and placing them on the countertop, listening to their heart ticking
and trying to discover if it reaches everywhere, if they can hear it
in their ankles.

This one goes out to their savings accounts and their kneecaps.

Here's hoping they make it.
Wade Redfearn Aug 2018
wind like a south wind carrying a plane south
deposits him, beneficiary of a backwards current
on a branch with nothing companionable in sight -
no answer, no voice to answer, no voice,
no alarm, no succor - just an afternoon
and nothing pressing. No urgent business,
maybe only the rigors of trying to prevent
there being urgent business later.
He's not all smooth. A little feather
cowlicked on his narrow jaw, and I don't know
how he bathes, what he eats, what he wants,
who would want to eat him. I don't really understand
anything that is going on around me. But look,
I understand more than him:
  the tree is dying.
Oak wilt blew in from Canada,
took a long time coming and finally cracked the veins
and this one is all bad on the inside, a meal of
corked-up flesh, big spongy patches and tainted roots
at the search.

(Amateur diagnosis. The tree is probably fine.)

There is a similarity neither tree nor bird know about.
Or his legs know it, and that message
is stuck somewhere. Or he's afraid.
The blighted oak is all fungus and refusal, and he:
his skeleton is spun from delicate copper.
If you open him up, he's like a penny -
pretty, and useless in this economy.
People and things always trying to get rid of him,
and he's listening because he knows it,
and he's singing because he knows it.

Open the tree up and the whole food chain comes down with it.
(Listen to your sweet flesh that wants to go on living.)

It's not a curse, not specifically:
just one fragile thing standing on another
but - count mercies -
too light to break it.

A basic brazier licking behind a splash of yellow, he chirrups.
His song comes from the throat.
His song is about something he saw once.
His song is unquestioned, muscle moving
without will.
  His plumage is mostly air
  And the tree is anchored in the ground
  by the very thing that chokes it,
and we're all standing together:
me, tree, bird. At least until
I finish my sandwich, packing the greasy paper in
a rectangle, with unquestioned neatness,
and leave whistling.
Wade Redfearn Jul 2018
the green and waxy confusion is your cape and covering
topaz wings strum and flutter,
branches snap
beast and bug
geranium and dogwood
woodear spore and wolfsbane
flower and firm hedge
all wear goosebumps:
the whole army of generation, the waft and release
ready to conceive, to love and make root
to spill and ****
daylight, moonlight
well-fed and hungry
west and further west

a brush against your thigh flattens you
climbs your spine like a curse
robes you in purpose
to be and be alone

there you are: croucher, scuttler,
position known only to yourself
subclade of womankind
treasure in your soul
(in purses and pouches;
taking in, taking in)

it is private here and musty
you own your hands, your knees,
the dirt under them both,
the roots beneath that,
everything on the wind and below the blue sky
everything dark, and everything light:
kingdom of your own discovery
shroud and mountain and cache of mystery.

A door far away slides open
an echo of busy house, busy bones on the air.
Something in the oven.
Something in the heart.

What is the voice calling?
Who wants you home, child?
And if home is a warm meal, a bed,
a bath, a glass of milk,
a known touch,
then do you own your skin?

Aren't you small and lonely?
You are not.
Wade Redfearn Jul 2018
It isn't like that.
It isn't a left turn too early,
a lark awake at night,
thick brown light in an open field;
unpredictable: a bad or counter-miracle.
It is only wanton.

You know how it is
Suddenly, something trapped between your toes:
the world has a strangled voice, it is
unroofed. You want the comfort of normal walls,
normal light, normal noise; in your hand
is a hot brand you'd halfway use
to smith it back together
and halfway swallow.
I had different plans for this vacation
than destruction.

I had plans. You had plans. The earth
planned its axial tilt; the weather planned
its burning; we put aside too little water.
A few plants were familiar -
the ruined piñon pine I remembered from the placard.
One lonesuch tree that made a little niche
at a defiant angle into the air
and outlived all except its orphaning.
How we thought we could fare better, I cannot say.

Ten feet up by one hundred feet over:
one liter water per mile climbed:
fatigue. Fatigue.
The quiet supremacy of all these rules for living like
transit and occultation
refraction and dimness
exertion
hunger
peristalsis pulling down
huge loads of sunlight
into the ***** gully
like bread and meat.

You will not see the bottom
no matter how hard you look.

If blood I am, then what kind of blood?
Unsettled and unsettling. The circulatory system
has an apt name: sometimes I can feel yesterday's blood
in the same neurons, saying the same thing.
I have no choice but to repeat it.
Time sheds its significance.
I have no continuity:
I have rhythms.

The new day, on fire and sitting in the trickle
you held a golden fish in your palm
as if you had made it by will
and cupped, it circled in the valley of your fingers
and I ate from the vision of care.

Erosion: isn't that what made these furrows?
I beg it to unmake me
flat like a seabed and many fathoms green
where the sun will never reach me.

In the penumbra of your anger
I do not fear dying,
only dying unclean.
Heights are all the same.
They would all break me and none would enough.
The grasshoppers and gecko hatchlings
all die in their way, rubbed in the hot dry dust.
Parched, I gnash my stone teeth
and tongue of chaparral -
I am making a song to say
die with me
but smile at me.

Then I see it through flashes of temper,
frame by frame, like a fingertip behind a pinwheel:
a dream of something distant that is also true.
Dreams of freedom alongside dreams of dying.
Wade Redfearn Jun 2018
Through his young belly as through mine, middling,
a bullet would tear equally smoothly.
But I am not in those photographs.

I am sometimes impressed with what I have survived
with no more than this glassy girdle as penance.
And though I never would have harmed the world as much
I have broken a birdhouse or two.

I still want his bodybag to lead to a better life.

He was not the sum of his parts,
he was the sum of his parts
and what they would become.
And he was twenty.

We are bonded, he and I: brothers in death
a ragged band of ***** flesh -
a fraternity of the frail!
so
vile as you are, vile as I sometimes am:
I can do no other than
touch your hand, if outstretched,
lay a kiss on your cheek for want of warmth
to ask you back into my home for bread.

Your caretaker am I,
and theirs, too.
I can bear their loss no more than yours
or yours more than theirs.

I wish all happiness.
I wish ALL happiness.
I wish all, all happiness.

As much happiness as they can fit in their mouths.
As much as I can swallow without chewing,
though I am so tempted to chew.
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