Characters for a Novel of the Days

By RICHARD HAGUE

POETRY SEMIFINALIST

Mostly, days sauntered by
like strangers come on Saturday
to the county seat:
there’d be Wednesday,
t-shirted, bearded, smoking a Bugler he’d rolled
himself, thinking of squirrels and the mighty football team
of Beallsville. Or Monday would show up,
brooding by the soldier’s monument
before the Monroe County Court House,
three June turkeys he’d bagged
under the game warden’s radar
stashed like Ice Age boulders in his freezer.
Or there’d be Columbus Day,
bears loping across the fairground of her mind
as one did in a front-page photo
last autumn in the Monroe County Beacon.

Summer solstice passed the time
jawing about weather, jobs,
Mr. Piatt’s garden,
Huff’s new Charolais,
Jim Winland’s hanging mole.

And there were days marvelous
as photographs of heaven:
the splashed litter of a robin’s nest
flecked with blue shell,
strewn hagiography of wing and escape;
or sky after a sunset storm,
remembering the colors of last night’s fire;
or the abrupt heartbreak of a hornet
landed harmless and beautiful on his knee,
or washed stones glimpsed sidelong
in some sandy palm of the creek,
or one noctilucent cloud
above the shadow poplar
like a moonless night’s bright idea.

And some were strange, dangerous, intense,
days some young tough sheriff might have staked out
had he known their plots and secrets:
that armed bitter Sunday, smoking by his
liquor cache in the woods,
the doomed rare bobcat across the creek
frozen in the sights of his cocked handgun;
that moody Friday night,
punkish desperado high on Meigs County Gold,
running the rusted-out ridges at fifty-five
with his jailbait girl from Jericho,
a waif of blonde booze and smoke;
that bleak November-souled unsuccessful suicide,
gassing his chainsaw Thursday midnight
and staggering toward the neighbors;
or worst, the thirty silver days
of brilliant awful light
in which the high woods
his friend once kept in West Virginia
lay stunned
then pushed aside,
dynamite and a dozer stripping off the top,
its driver shouting Elvis songs
above the snap and roar.

 

Richard Hague’s During The Recent Extinctions: New & Selected Poems l984-2012 was the winner of the 2012 Weatherford Award in Poetry from the Appalachian Studies Association and the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. He was the recent Hughes Lecturer at West Liberty University in West Liberty, West Virginia, and kicked off the Northern Kentucky University Literary Series with a reading and workshop in October 2014. His 14 books include Milltown Natural: Essays and Stories from a Life (Bottom Dog Press, l997), which was nominated for a National Book Award, and Alive in Hard Country (Bottom Dog Press, 2003) which was named Appalachian Poetry Book of the Year by the Appalachian Writers Association. He recently ended his 45-year teaching career by refusing to sign an objectionable contract from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati which included an anti-gay “morality clause.”


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