Tuesday Aug 22

NorwoodNick Nick Norwood’s poems have appeared in a wide range of journals, including The Paris Review, Shenandoah, Southwestern American Literature, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Poetry Daily, and many others. His third full volume of poetry, Gravel and Hawk, won the Hollis Summers Prize in Poetry and was published by Ohio University Press in 2012. His other books are A Palace for the Heart (2004) and The Soft Blare (2003), and the limited edition, fine press book Wrestle (2007), which he produced in collaboration with the artist Erika Adams. He teaches at Columbus State University in Georgia. His website can be found here.
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Eagle & Phenix Dam
Columbus, Georgia


I

An immense weight of water piles
behind the old millrace and dam,
its rough stonework and masonry,
lip a cutting edge the river laps

over smooth as Tiffany glass.
Dark jade frothing into a white
lacy cacophony: a motion
picture of time passing, relentless

and loud but jeweled with the rope
pearl necklaces of its own spray,
veiled in mists for herons to lope
through as in plates by Audobon.

They’re tearing it down to make way
for whitewater rafting, mill life
long dead, downtown become a haven
for recreation, bars, bike shops,

a bus station barbecue joint;
the mill itself become a hive
of loft apartments, a poet
the resident in Unit 412

with a balcony overlooking
the falls, the redbrick powerhouse
with its massive turbines and rusting
picturesque cast-iron workings.

The empty boiler’s phallic smokestacks
peer through his high windows, a pair
of brick cannon barrels that loom
over what used to be a floor

fitted out with the shuttle and loom,
cast shadows born of starlight over
him while he’s snoring. And the river,
wronged or righted, one way or

another, keeps right on roaring.

II

The midday blast rattled the glass
and made the old mill tremble.
A civic spectacular
viewable via the “dam cam”
on the Internet. When the dust

and smoke subsided, the flue
of brickred run its course
in the river current, what was left
was the ragged hole
in the venerable wall the engineers

had intended, the Chattahoochee
freed at least of this one shackle
after a hundred and fifty years.
It gushed through the gap
playful as a week-old calf.

What rose, within days,
was an intolerable stench:
an overbearing sulfurous must
that hung about for a month,
made of decaying wood mixed

with riverbed mud, fish guts,
cotton-mill chemicals, and such
as the dam kept hid a century
and more and the breach
brought out into the open.

From the powerhouse catwalk,
looking down: the heart pine timbers
and decking of the antique
pre-masonry structure still
intact, now a jumble, a pile

of matchsticks studded
with corroded car parts, tires,
shopping carts, scuttled craft,
a timeline of the lost working-class’s
fishing gear huddled near

the mouth of the old millrace
like the heap of history,
the archaeological swag
searchers find in a burial pit:
a charmed member of the ruling class’s

scattered bones and funereal kit
meant to aid his passage
into the other world, into
the next world, into some promised
prayed-for eternal world.






Remains of a Brick Kiln Built by Slaves



In the quiet of a stand of pines
on a remote stretch of the Natchez Trace,
a few hundred yards from the house
that was an eighteenth-century inn

and from their own burial ground
with its mostly unmarked graves,
these few bricks buried flush
to the surface float like sinking ships

in that last buoyancy of air trapped
near cabin and stateroom ceiling,
before the prow dips, the sleek hull slides
toward the deep bottom, where it will lie

undisturbed but for the hauntings
of the unperceiving,
for centuries decaying into itself
until a salvage crew comes calling,

its intrepid discoverers, men and women
the past could not imagine, probing
in wonder, delight, intelligent thrill
at what they cannot understand.






The King’s Party



On his bed of twenty thousand shells
hauled up from the Gulf, he lies
in Cahokia Mound 72
ten miles from the Gateway Arch.

The Great Leader, six foot two,
his seashell bed arranged in the shape
of an eagle or hawk
to fly him to the upper world,

surrounded by arrow points,
the bones of over fifty concubines
and his four most trusted advisors,
their heads and hands cut off

but their arms interlocked
as if to dance him toward his flight,
assorted grave goods,
a sheet of mica to keep him warm.

Just a stone’s throw from the river
that birthed his culture
and the city of St. Louis,
its downtown core studded

with skyscrapers and ringed
by slums, then suburbs, then farms
scattered like stars
and connected by highways,

a scene which seen from the air
looks, at night, like constellations,
by day, a village midden
or ancient burial site.