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Wade Redfearn May 2022
Look at the sphere –
which astronomers say is no sphere at all.
Not halfway between ourselves and the edge of space.
Blue with the ancient gasses that cling to its massive ribs.
Blue with the dissent of that atmosphere to sunlight.
Flat, a little, at the poles, teetering
white into the void.

Strewn with latitudes and the wakes of ships.
It is green, except where it is not.
It is dusted with the tread of angels
commingled with the hoofprints of stags.
It is only as wide as you can hold in your eye.

A succession of names is written on the pedestal.
Each, for a moment, watched night crawl across a peninsula;
saw countries form, shine and pass out of being,
smiles at a distant stranger.

Spin it lightly, with just your fingertips, and listen to the air moving over it.
Nobody is here, and the final name is yours.
First you will come to know your voice.
Then you can begin to name the animals.
Wade Redfearn Apr 2022
Impotent hands;
impotent hands and eyes;
imagination and conscience
birthing a scream,
but with such
clean and impotent hands and eyes.

In the witching hour when all the souls walk again
the dead mayor of Bucha and his dead children
will jump up suddenly, like Lazarus, just as
suddenly as they died. Grabbing their bicycles
by the handlebars they will follow the wisp home
they will live in their own house again,
as they always should have. None of us
can disturb them.

Bullets in their temples they will put wood in the stove.
The rest of us can only watch.

Evil everywhere and not just bad mothering but, there,
breaking out over the treetops, gaudily lit,
like a carousel, our own grotesques
come floating into the world,
wicked colors playing on our swollen faces,
holding torches to light the marching way.

No, you know better.

The dead mayor of Bucha told me this:
If you were to prevent it, lying there upon a field in winter,
it would only take reaching down with one hand,
and scraping the snow with a fingernail.
The truth about evil is like the snow beneath your belly, the dead mayor of Bucha says.
It is in and under your body,
slick and cold.
Reach down and touch it.
Wade Redfearn Sep 2021
out of the fabulous soil
mostly liquid - we're all
mostly liquid - a foot tall
if you'll allow it and
why not. I can't even
make the bed anymore.
Sleep calls me back; sunlight

fixes me there. I want the next thing
then the next thing. Not this -
days and days to die,
a frost, the weather
shouldn't be my enemy.
Should only be
one condition among many.

Who told you
there was a void underneath the ground?
Who told you
if you went down far enough, you could drink it?
Will you tell us
what replaces it?
Wade Redfearn Oct 2019
(This one is for El Paso and Dayton. It was written a while ago.)

In the dream,
  she is wearing a dress of starry organza,
stiffened by sweat,
  she, like me, is old,
and after several hours,
  tired of dancing.
I am conscious, suddenly,
  that only bones hold our clothing up
  and that mine ache like an old fence in the rain.

The room is a library, two stories, with a ladder on wheels,
lit in the middle by a heavy chandelier, which drops
two thousand lumens onto the floor just below it,
and is still too weak to reach the corners,
  the lee side of the wrinkles in my trousers,
  the inch between the bone at the back of my ear
  and the hair at the base of my neck,
such that when I come near to her,
we create wrinkles in one another,
and a black lapse in the center of the room.

Mass is rarely consistent in dreams;
you think you know how a shoulder ought to feel,
and you are correct, until you look for more than knowing,
  such that she feels, in turns, as real as I am,
  and just like me,
  and just like the shape my hand has taken,
  finally, like the void I’m careful not to touch.
The profuse shadows wash around my feet and eyes,
the stars in her fabric are dusked by absences,
dark pools collect around her knees,
  maim her ribs,
  drip from her cheeks,
and begin to grow and seep,
as she vanishes into them.

I repeat the touch to search for her again,
I search for her again and I am in a forest,
fourteen and a boy scout underdressed for the cold,
**** in my hands and flashlight in my teeth,
one hand on the trunk of a pine that I can hardly see,
listening to the trickle I make against the bark,
and a fearful groaning in the deeper woods
she moves and the dress moves with her,
it rustles; I am exposed to the light and blinded.

Smelling of pine needles and **** and searching
for a clasp in the dark that will prove her
  beyond the doubt that only I can see her
  and the doubt she lives at all,
  not merely me or as a shape my opposite,
I settle on a place in the fabric below where I remember a shoulder,  
I find something flexible and sharp.
  It gives with a squeeze.

The fabric drops,
the stars pile in pure layers,
her raiment is bright,
  white seeds floating
  over a blue chasm,
where the shadows have joined.

The body is monstrous; a calendar of injuries,
from swollen ankles and clawed feet chained together,
skin mottled to six colors by constant burns,
where ******* would be, flat, grown over
by a bark cadaverously pale,
the shoulders caved in,
as if by a yoke.

Her eyes are blue and solemn.
She looks at me as if I could heal her
if I would only touch her.
I press my hand to a knotted scar
and feel it pass through.
Wade Redfearn Apr 2019
In the reliquary there is the censer, and the book.
In the reliquary, which is the fields and
the little hidden place known only to you,
there is also a plant with plush green leaves, hung
from rotted twine, going yellow and ancient
in the native light. The word is a rebuke and the
plant is the rebuke of the word,
and the water that kept the plant
green and lovely is vanishing
and the plant can only be used when
it is rid of it.

Buy them by the carton and smoke them
so when he sticks his fat head out of Heaven
we can catch his beard on fire.
Draw his fat head as if it is magnificent:
draw it next to the lamb reposed
and the crossword in the children's Sunday pamphlet.
Remain quiet. Read instead about
the flight of the Jews and their wanderings.
There is smoke in Exodus. There is smoke in Leviticus.
There is smoke in every cell of your body
and if you are burned you will rise.
Remain quiet. The silence is a wall
you can crush with a fist until you recognize yourself in it;
a sanctuary is any four walls that contain peace;
white panels hide the baptismal and are the only way out:
we recognize our end in the quiet, warm water.
It gets in your ears like water does. When
the saints speak or the doves cluck you can only hear
choking, like a storm drain ******* at leaves. What color
is the water that is not the River Jordan: clear unto the tile.
What color are his eyes that are not
the River Jordan? What color are his eyes when
he looks at you bowing and scraping
in the closet with the believer in a spaghetti strap top
she cannot wear to school? What color?

The hand on the bell is profane so the sound of the bell is profane;
better to hold what is already ruined and ruin it further
says the land that was given
to the men who **** it,
and the stars misconceived
smile at those going North
and are silent in cities.
Wade Redfearn Feb 2019
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.

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.

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
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:
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