Chickamauga

Dove-twirl in the tall grass.
                                              End-of-summer glaze next door
On the gloves and split ends of the conked magnolia tree.
Work sounds: truck back-up beep, wood tin-hammer, cicada, fire horn.


History handles our past like spoiled fruit.
Mid-morning, late-century light
                                                 calicoed under the peach trees.
Fingers us here. Fingers us here and here.


The poem is a code with no message:
The point of the mask is not the mask but the face underneath,
Absolute, incommunicado,                                                                                                   
                                       unhoused and peregrine.


The gill net of history will pluck us soon enough
From the cold waters of self-contentment we drift in
One by one
                  into its suffocating light and air.


Structure becomes an element of belief, syntax
And grammar a catechist,
Their words what the beads say,
                                        words thumbed to our discontent.

Charles Wright, "Chickamauga" from Chickamauga. Copyright © 1996 by Charles Wright.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Source: The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002 (2002)
More Poems by Charles Wright