Wednesday Dec 13

Michael Chitwood is a free-lance writer and teaches at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill.
His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Field, The Georgia Review and numerous other journals. Ohio Review Books has published two books of his poetry—Salt Works (1992) and Whet (1995). His third book, The Weave Room, was published by The U of Chicago P in the Phoenix Poets series (1998). His collection of essays, Hitting Below the Bible Belt, was published by Down Home Press in 1998. Gospel Road Going, a collection of poems about his native Appalachia,was published in 2002 and was awarded the 2003 Roanoke-Chowan Prize for Poetry. In 2006, he published a collection of essays and short stories called Finishing Touches. His collection of poetry From Whence was released in March 2007 from Louisiana State UP, and Tupelo Press published his book Spill in October of 2007. Spill was named as a finalist for ForeWard magazine’s poetry book of the year and won the 2008 Roanoke-Chowan Prize.

 

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Dense Fog in Which I Miss the Eastern Seaboard’s Largest Flag Flying over a Toyota Dealership off I-95 near Washington, D.C.
 
 
White night,
distance is done in.
 
Is this Heaven,
this cloud come to ground?
 
Our lights
are two short sticks;
 
they cannot reach
to tap the ground.
 
Our velocity’s
an edge, a ledge.
 
In here is risk.
Notice we slow only slightly.
 
Do I hear a horn,
a siren in this air raid?
 
Here’s smoke from big guns;
we’ve been vaporized.
 
We plunge.
Where are we going
 
that we keep going
in this?
 
Muhammad Ali couldn’t
punch out of this sogging.
 
General MacArthur’s howitzers
couldn’t hammer it.
 
Nixon couldn’t lie this away,
nor Clinton nor Bush.
 
I can see no Edward Hopper
billboards for Calvin Klein.
 
 
Great Nature has lowered
the curtain on commerce.
 
I am mole to this tunnel.
Even the CIA is blind here.
 
Wait, Elvis is singing to Ella.
I’ll follow that. No, it’s gone.
 
I tap my brakes.
What might be ahead
 
is blank, a history
to be written.
 
The first woman president
is invisible on the shoulder.
 
My _________ville, my _____ton,
my ________boro have vanished.
 
This is aftermath,
mushroom cloud come down.
 
Where has the country gone?
Where the vets at the VFW?
 
Where the ruckus at Woodstock?
And the Lions and Bengals and Bears?
 
Please give us back our lynchings,
our oil wars, our dead rivers.
 
We’ll take Enron and Exxon
for one more cup of joe
 
at the diner of our pork barrel,
pot-bellied, waddling democracy.
 
Ah, there, thank God,
a mudflap with a busty
 
silver silhouette.
We are saved.
 
And now the sun,
a platinum disc
 
on the office wall
of the big boss exec
 
is burning through
and thank you, Mr. Postman,
 
for our speed limits,
our exit ramps and cloverleaves,
 
our vision, our miles of asphalt
returned to us.
 
 
 
Morning and Evening
 
 
The shed is out back.
The old tools hang from nails,
manning their stations.
The spade’s blade would still cut
a snake in half. The blunt ax
would serve if hefted.
Buckets hold their emptiness
safe from rain.
The gray papers of wasps’ nests
are not this year’s news.
Mud dauber flutes pipe their silence.
She can find what she needs here
if she needs it.
The handles fit any hand.
The mattock leans at ease.
The saw’s smile catches the late light.
The hammer’s of two minds,
to strike or withdraw?
She closes in the evening
what she opens each morning.