By Atsuro Riley Atsuro Riley
A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)
the closest they ever were.
In right lockstitch
snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.
By dawn the older brother took to chucking
what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.
The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters
with a yowl.
Lord the sound such as rose from him
carried so
into us. Clings.
Hadn’t they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.
—Came a man (and truck) to take them off.
Dieseled those boys off
some say somewheres upcountry,
Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.
No body not them knows
just how they humped and grubbled home
what road they’d graved what woods criss-crossed
which creeks which trains they’d hopped who helped.
Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.
Came safe home       —as him  —and him.
—as (evermore) not them.

Source: Poetry (April 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2011
 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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Youth, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Coming of Age


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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