Neighbors, Throwing Knives

By David Bottoms b. 1949 David Bottoms
In the woods at the corner of our yards   
we hang the plywood squares,
the Magic Marker images of pronghorn, panther,   
grizzly, whitetail,
and step off the paces we use to measure   
our skill.
                Here in the soft light filtering   
through needles and cones, green shifting   
membrane of poplar, hickory, live oak,   
white skin of dogwood beginning
to flower, we heft the blades,
grind points on stone, gauge the fine balance   
between what is real and what is imagined,   
the knives bringing all the animals to life   
and killing them again
as our throws bury steel deep in the heart
of the quivering wood and the blades tremble   
back through their bones.
                                       In our own hearts
we love what they might be, their shapes   
frozen in brush as though, suddenly,
they had turned from wood
and caught our scent drifting in a wind-shift.   
So we hunt this suburb, whet our aim   
to move among them in the little wilderness   
beyond the bricked-in beds of azaleas,   
sunflowers tied against tall sticks,
the half-acres of razored grass,
trellised vines, boxwoods manicured by wives.

David Bottoms, “Neighbors, Throwing Knives” from Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1995 by David Bottoms. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Armored Hearts: Selected and New Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1995)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet David Bottoms b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature

 David  Bottoms


David Bottoms was born in Canton, Georgia in 1949. He earned an MA from the University of West Georgia and a PhD from Florida State University. In 1979, Bottoms won the prestigious Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his collection Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump. Robert Penn Warren, the contest’s judge, described Bottoms as “a strong poet, and much of his strength emerges from the fact that he is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization


POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.