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Southern Cultures 7.3 (2001) 83-84

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Mason-Dixon Lines

Two Poems

Charles Wright


All Landscape is Abstract,
and Tends to Repeat Itself

I came to my senses with a pencil in my hand
And a piece of paper in front of me.
        To the years
Before the pencil, O, I was the resurrection.
Still, who knows where the soul goes,
Up or down,
    after the light switch is turned off, who knows?
It's late August, and prophets are calling their bears in.
The sacred is frightening to the astral body,
As is its absence.
      We have to choose which fear is our consolation.
Everything comes ex alto,
We'd like to believe, the origin and the end, or [End Page 83]
Non-origin and the non-end,
      each distant and inaccessible.
Over the Blue Ridge, the whisperer starts to whisper in tongues.
Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
      hopelessly, passion-placed,
Untranslatable language.
Non-mystical, insoluble in blood, they act as an opposite
To the absolute, whose words are a solitude, and set to music.
All forms of landscape are autobiographical.

Autumn's Sidereal,
November's a Ball and Chain

After the leaves have fallen, the sky turns blue again,
Blue as a new translation of Longinus on the sublime.
We wink and work back from its edges.
         We walk around
Under its sequence of metaphors,
Looking immaculately up for the overlooked.
Or looking not so immaculately down for the same thing.
If there's nothing going on, there's no reason to make it up.
Back here, for instance, next to the cankered limbs of the plum
We take a load off.
      Hard frost on the grass blades and wild onion,
Invisibly intricate, so clear.
Pine needles in herringbone, dead lemon leaves, dead dirt.
The metaphysical world is meaningless today,
South wind retelling its autobiography
Through the white pines, somesuch and susurration, shhh, shhh . . .

Charles Wright, one of the leading lights of contemporary American poetry, received the Pulitzer Prize for his 1997 collection of poems, Black Zodiac. The author of twelve volumes of poetry, he currently teaches creative writing at the University of Virginia.


"All Landscape is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself" and "Autumn's Sidereal, November's a Ball and Chain" from APPALACHIA by Charles Wright. ©1998 by Charles Wright. Reprinted by permission of the author and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.



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