continental divide

By D. A. Powell b. 1963
had no direction to go but up: and this, the shattery road
its surface graining, trickle in late thaw—is nothing amiss?
            —this melt, the sign assures us, natural cycle
                         and whoosh, the water a dream of forgotten white

past aspens colored in sulfur, they trembled, would
—poor sinners in redemption song—shed their tainted leaves



I tell you what boy I was, writing lyrics to reflect my passions:
the smell of a bare neck in summer
a thin trail of hairs disappearing below the top button of cut-offs
the lean, arched back of a cyclist straining to ascend a hill

in the starlight I wandered: streets no better than fields
the cul-de-sacs of suburbia just as treacherous, just as empty

if wood doves sang in the branches of the acacias, I could not hear them
anyone lost in that same night was lost in another tract

the air pulsed and dandelion pollen blew from green stalks
                        —that was all



and yes, someone took me in his car.   and another against the low fence
in the park at the end of our block.   under the willow branches
where gnats made a furious cloud at dawn and chased us away

I knew how it felt to lie in a patch of marigolds: golden stains
the way morning swarmed a hidden rooftop, the catbirds singing
the feel of ruin upon lips rubbed raw throughout the night

granite peaks: here, the earth has asserted itself. and the ice asserted
and human intimacies conspired to keep us low and apart

for an ice age I knew you only as an idea of longing:
a voice in the next yard, whispering through the chink
a vagabond outlined against the sky, among the drying grass



we journey this day to darkness: the chasm walls lift us on their scaly backs
the glaciers relinquish their secrets: that sound is the ice bowing
and the sound underneath, the trickle: the past released, disappearing



you pinnacle of my life, stand with me on this brink
half-clouded basin caked in flat grays, the very demise of green

you have surmounted the craggy boundary between us.



you open a place for me in earth, receiving my song


                                 —for Haines Eason

D.A. Powell, "continental divide" from Chronic. Copyright © 2009 by D.A. Powell.  Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press. www.graywolf.org

Source: Chronic (Graywolf Press, 2009)

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Poet D. A. Powell b. 1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Relationships, Love, Desire, Heartache & Loss

 D. A. Powell

Biography

Born in Albany, Georgia, D.A. Powell earned an MA at Sonoma State University and an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first three collections of poetry, Tea, (1998), Lunch (2000), and Cocktails (2004), are considered by some to be a trilogy on the AIDS epidemic. Lunch was a finalist for the National Poetry Series, and Cocktails was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. His next two books were . . .

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SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Desire, Heartache & Loss

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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