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,
not made for pastel-
lined driveways, houses
set back facing the road
after a loud crash of histories.
Where last year’s leaffall
is manicured into groomed mounds
and the latest models
sit sparkling in whitewashed
gravel beds. And yet, the drive
is pleasant enough,
on the smartphone
alerting me of the next turn
off, so that I, as well as the azaleas,
dogwoods, can enjoy the scenery
where the journey ends.
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.
A very kind shout-out and collaborative nod from artist Chris Ludke, whose work inspired the poem at our Literary salon last week. You can check out her work here— the painting’s title is Poe’s Enchanted Garden. More info on upcoming literary salons in Richmond can be found on the James River Writers’ site, here.
This poem was written by Joanna Lee.
On Hearing the History of the Poe Gardens at the Literary Salon in the Patrick Henry Pub
(based on the painting by Chris Ludke)
Nestled in a backdrop of chatter and raven windowpanes,
of sweating whiskey and melted rocks, light
plays on water and the pale of crepe,
of periwinkle. A sun plastically brightly cuts
the hard edge of a shadow that could stand
on it’s own, lonesome and unnatural.
And I remind myself this is about connection, that we,
rose-less, are a hundred variations of the same thorn.
Joanna hears her muse! You can look her up at
I thought the Salon was great! The 1st person to speak told the history of the Poe garden. It’s been through a lot of changes. It was…
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