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16 April 2008

Poets take us to last places

Junkyard2Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. -Plato

The smallest of gestures, the symbolic connection to last places, the pilgrimages to sites of pain and loss. It is an urge, a yearning, a need I believe we all know. This one broke my heart. This one made me quiet. This one.

Thanks, Alice, for sending it, and to the poet, of course, for voicing it.

At Reid Hartley's Junkyard

To enter we find the gap
between barbed wire and briars,
pass the German Shepherd chained
to an axle, cross the ditch
of oil black as a tar pit,
my aunt compelled to come here
on a Sunday after church,
asking me when her husband
refused to search this island
reefed with past catastrophes.
We make our way to the heart
of the junkyard, cling of rust
and beggarlice on our clothes,
bumpers hot as a skillet
as we squeeze between car husks
to find in this forever
stilled traffic one Ford pickup,
tires stripped, radio yanked out,
driver's door open. My aunt
gets in, stares through glass her son
looked through the last time he knew
the world, as though believing
like others who come here she
might see something to carry
from this wreckage, as I will
when I look past my aunt's ruined
Sunday dress, torn stockings, find
her right foot pressed to the brake.

-Ron Rash, from his book, Raising the Dead

Junkyard3_2

[images from this man's beautiful flickr stream]

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I love Ron Rash's novels and short stories but have never read his poetry. Thanks for sharing this one with us.

I don't remember ever having such a strong response to a poem. On the bookshelf in our bedroom, my husband has the wristwatch with a broken band and the pair of reading glasses that were recovered from the auto accident that took his father's life. Each time we pass the place the accident occurred, we quietly remember what a wonderful husband and father passed on that piece of Earth. Thanks for posting it.

I know him (Ron Rash)! And by "know" I mean he graduated from Clemson, taught here for a little bit, wrote the novel, One Foot in Eden, dedicated it to my favorite English professor (Bill Koon), and came to speak at one of my classes, where I asked him to sign my copy of his book and walked away like a starstruck 22 year old...

Did I mention that I know him!

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