By Atsuro Riley Atsuro Riley
What was it for the longest time but lore, lure;

A heard-tell growing gold in the mind.

Word said (and word’d spread) it was well on back

Through the underwood by Bowen’s Canal.

Past convoluted trees there’s claydirt, a clear patch.

A (rife) clearing.

Ripe croodle-field.



Bear off

Right where understory comes to grief entire—

Grubble this way head-down

Belly-down claw through clingburrs as a creature.

Cross (fret-morass and canebrake) and pass.


Encompassed here

Where springs not fail

Canes not break nor welt on backs of leg

Green cresses plait

No plaque of heated iron scathes

(Nor noose, nor knives)

Articulated scapes arise


Always the story-man lights lard-lamps in a circle and tells.

A boy scrapes and ever-graves for likeness with a stick.

Two girls croodle corn-songs cane-songs back and forth unbroken.

Once-bent bodies leap (in chorus) leg and whirl.

Source: Poetry (September 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2009
 Atsuro  Riley


Atsuro Riley grew up in South Carolina lowcountry and lives in San Francisco. His heavily stressed, percussive, consonant-rich, free-verse poems conjure up the elemental images of the lives of people inhabiting a specific, acutely portrayed landscape. His poems are dense with impressions, voices, and glimpses of people who have experienced the Vietnam War, rural life, and the South. Though grounded in a world that seems . . .

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