Skip to main content

Gale Acuff


I'm carving my initials on a tree
with a pocketknife my father gave me
yesterday. My first tool. My first weapon.
I'm leaving a hint of who I am here
by force. I'm not killing the tree but what
was that cry I just heard? Probably just
a bird but it's a new one on me. Crow?
Pigeon? No and no. GA--that's me, or
part. I know who I am but if someone
comes through these woods and doesn't know me then
he won't know I cut these clues. But he'll know
why, I suspect, and that's enough: as if
I've put my mark on Nature--my copy
-right. Yes (mean my initials), I own all
you survey. Not just this one tree but all
its brothers and, by extension, the earth
and sky, bushes and briars and flowers,
birds and squirrels and stray cats and dogs and
whatever other creatures wander through,
including the character who pauses
here and finds the owner of this forest.
Not that he would know where to look. Chances
are he won't stop here at all but at some
strange tree. If I'm discovered it will be
by accident. And I'm not even sure
if I can find this place again myself.
It will be like stumbling on a second
finding. I may wander through here for years
and never see me again, especially
if it's me I'm seeking. Then, in ten years,
say, I'm back in the territory and
I stop to wipe my brow or take a piss
and I look up and there I am, even
taller than I stand. Well (I'll say), I'll be
damned. There it is. There I am. After all
this time. I'll reach to touch the old scars and
recall the pocketknife lost long ago,
perhaps in these very woods. I don't know.
If it's here it's rusted to Hell by now,
going back to what it was before mined
and forged and alloyed and packaged and sold
to my father and then passed on to me.
That's me, too, lying in the loam somewhere
beneath the trees. I shouldn't be careless
and wouldn't want to lose me for life.
Or suppose someone finds it before me,
picks it up and takes it home and cleans it
and slides it into his pocket, finders
keepers? There's something left of me on edge
and I'll bet that it will never wear off
no matter how much it's used. My tool. My
weapon. My birth and my death and a name.

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in eleven countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.


Popular posts from this blog

Ed Dorn's # 22 From Twenty-four Love Poems

                                               from Jacket The strengthy message here in #22 of 24 Love Songs can be summed up in two lines: ['There is/no sense to beauty. . .' and '. . .How/ the world is shit/ and I mean all of it] What I also like about this brief poem is the interplay between the title of the book and the subject of the poems (love/anti-love (which is not hate)): it's all a mass of contradictions, like love. And I have to say that the shorter poems of the Love Songs and the last book he wrote before dying (Chemo Sábe) seem to me much better and more memorable than the Slinger/Gunslinger poems. These (generally) later poems probably attempt less stylistically, but are more sure-handed, hacked from a soap bar, maybe. Easy to use, but disappear after use. In any case, Dorn is well worth the reading and re-reading, for me, though he'll never become one of my favorites. And doesn't every poet want that, dead or alive? ;-) #22 The agony

Mike James

 The River’s Architecture for Louis McKee, d. 11/21/11 The river has a shape you follow with your whole body: shoulder, footstep, and ear- those who know how to listen hear how river wind is like breath, alive in lung and line. Mike James makes his home in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He has published in hundreds of magazines, large and small, and has performed his poetry at universities and other venues throughout the country. He has published over 20 collections and has served as visiting writer at the University of Maine, Fort Kent. His recent new and selected poems, Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021, was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His last collection, Back Alley Saints at the Tiki Bar, was published in April by Redhawk. He currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Murfreesboro, TN.

Jim Daniels

Half Days My daughter, thirteen, pale shred of herself, fought an unidentified infection in her spine as it softened her discs into disappearance. I’d unread that story if she were young and still listened to lullabies. After she got discharged, I set an alarm for two a.m. each night to shoot antibiotics into her port while she slept, her limp arm resting in my hand. Her return to school: half days—follow my dotted line smearing across months of sleepless breadcrumbs— at noon I idled high, anxious in the school driveway rattling off the latest test results in the zero gravity of fear. She startled me with the brittle thunk of the car door slam, then snapped at me for staring at her friends as they strolled across the street to the cafeteria, creeping them out, she said, embarrassed by illness like hard acne or a blooming hickey, wrong music or flakey hair, or the tacky middle-school jumper she no longer had to wear. I was there to drive her to