because while some truths lend themselves to equations, others are best described in verse

poetry of place


Somewhere off Cherokee Road
the hills roll and the azaleas,
dogwoods litter the banks
of the dropped shoulder
with prom dress colors,
like this neck of the woods
was made for sweet sixteen.
Passing through for the first time,
I don’t understand: the Cherokee
never knew this southside
central Virginia suburb
as home; this
was Mattaponi land, or Pamunkey,
Pocahontas’ people—
not made for pastel-
lined driveways, houses
set back facing the road
like rubber-neckers
after a loud crash of histories.
Where last year’s leaffall
is manicured into groomed mounds
of might-have-beens,
and the latest models
sit sparkling in whitewashed
gravel beds. And yet, the drive
is pleasant enough,
Victorian voice
on the smartphone
alerting me of the next turn
off, so that I, as well as the azaleas,
dogwoods, can enjoy the scenery
without overthinking
where the journey ends.

Off Texas Avenue, the parking lot is littered with memories

From the skinny brown arcs
of ballerinas rooted
in a coltish breeze,
the first brittle leaves drift
limply to still-summer ground,
yellow earthbound stars
five-pointed like fingers
whose reach is destined to be crushed.
there is a silence
that holds underneath the constant hum
of voices, engines, bike treads;
the same we came here seeking
so many years ago. tiny clam shells
scattered among gravel tell how far
the sea has come, calling
to mind a beach road
i saw once, where a black man
in an old truck rode north
with one arm out the window,
the bed full of rusted chains,
whole oil drums full. like the shadow
of the hawk gliding hugely over the rooftops
that bank the park, i want it
to mean something, to be more
than soundless commentary:
a blessing. a washing clean.

On our block

the late afternoon light
is gone all too quickly,
wind kicking backup
to a song of inevitable night.
The wreathe on the front door
sags, its plastic dogwood petals
looking out with longing at the sky-
tossed branches. Cars pass
indifferently, take the stop sign
at the corner like a held breath;
down the street children scream
and giggle. Someone rolls the emptiness
of a supercan past the eyes of a window.
Around the corner, a man’s dark laugh
barks through the alley.
Weeds grow between herringbone brick
at the speed of sunny violence.
No one is coming,
or going, set in their skinny row
houses like children in sandcastles.
No one is home. Or out on the porch steps
that make do for porches. No one
blinks at the sound of gunfire.
No one looks, or waves goodbye.
Like everyone else, we are all just
on our way.