Frederick C. Wilbur

 

fall 1968


AUCTION

"I saw the black cattle / as the wind whistled through my beard."

By Frederick C. Wilbur - from Roanoke Review, Fall 1968


current work


A ROOTS READING

 

Two mulberry trees grew entwined 

and by the time we bought this place 

they were more than a hug around: 

trumpet vines had laced them together, 

robin-crafted nests were badges, east and west. 

Within a dozen years, they were dying, 

shedding twigs and shards of bark, 

so I had a local man come to cut them down 

and I have burned them in the stove for a dozen more.   

He left the two stumps, seemingly one, 

a foot or so above the placid lawn 

as if he thought I’d place a cement lantern 

or a painted angel there to overlook the highway 

as a warning for the curve ahead and I could have: 

the stumps refuse to disappear and remain  

odd keepsakes in our yard. 

 

Now, to ready the property for sale, 

I dig out those cuddling stumps, 

begin with the offerings gathered to them 

of broken iron and petals of painted porcelain. 

I do not mistake my labor for indifference, 

but decode their root language, their dialect, 

the way they feel themselves around rocks, 

the hole growing larger like the loss of life’s detail, 

but I understand the burden of ancestors, 

the hidden sorrows of fathers and mothers 

so I cut the stump a foot or so below ground level 

and I borrow three or four loads of dirt 

from the woods nearby to fill  

the missing hearts, to mound a slight memorial  

for the acceptance to settle in. 

 

a note from the author

“Auction” was one of my first published poems outside school literary magazines. As an apprentice poet, I was exploring voice and tone. It derives from personal experience growing up in a small town and portrays the life of the surrounding countryside (near Waynesboro, Virginia). It is light hearted with a few cynical twinges, a comment on the commercial and social aspects of such ‘household’ auctions.

“A Roots Reading” is set as well in a small town/country setting, but is a little more first person voice. My attempt has always been to ground abstracts in the mundane to afford a ‘literal surface’ while at the same time using language to its fullest connotation. I want my work to be compelling even as it may seem understated. Hopefully, this is achieved by provoking the reader to question the ‘mystery’ of the piece. Although this piece is in free verse, I frequently write in conventional forms.


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Frederick C. Wilbur's work has appeared in many literary journals including: Shenandoah, The Lyric, The South Carolina Review, Cold Mountain Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Atlanta Review, The Chariton Review, Roanoke Review, Able Muse, Poetry Quarterly, Greensboro Review, Slant, Appalachian Heritage, Plainsongs, Snowy Egret, POEM, and online, Verse-Virtual, Rotary Dial, and Silver Birch Press. His fourth book, a collection of poetry, As Pus Floats the Splinter Out, is to be published in 2018 by Kelsay Books. He is an architectural woodcarver and has authored three dozen articles and three books on architectural and decorative woodcarving (Guild of Master Craftsman Publications, Lewes, UK). He received a BA degree from the University of Virginia and an MA degree from the University of Vermont. He lives with my wife and family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia.

Margaret Gibson


spring 1968


RIDING WESTWARD, EARLY MORNING

My eyes / are creased and folded like a map.
By Margaret Gibson- From Roanoke Review, Spring 1968

By Margaret Gibson- From Roanoke Review, Spring 1968

 

current work


PASSAGE

 

And then a bird flew into my body and nested in the cuff of my shoulder.

This is the mystery of pain — it can sing.

 

I hear the wind differently now. I breathe, and my ribs are the cirrus of clouds.

There’s a river in my wrist. Daily I practice

 

eclipse, although ordinary loss will do. At night I ripen beneath a hush of stars.


a note from the author

The title of the early poem tells me I’d been reading John Donne’s "Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward.’’ Riding west, the speaker’s thoughts bend east to dwell on suffering he imagines he’d feel were he to see "flesh . . . worn by God, for his apparel, rag’d and torn." Like Donne’s speaker, mine also rides westward. I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and commuting over the mountains to Madison College, my first teaching job. Winding along curving roads and within a private agony, the Blue Ridge mountains seem to revolve, and I see the sun rise, "a bloodied eye." The speaker, the imagery tells us in its fraught way, is wounded and taking measure of herself. Reading the poem now, I wince at the tortured imagery. In the last lines of stanza 1 and stanza 3, I can barely make out what I mean to say. The only clear and heart rending line in the poem is interrogative: "How can love be firm/when sun is not." I was twenty-three, married too early, unable to love fully, dimly aware of needing to atone. Donne is more direct. He needs to "receive correction." He wants to be worth God’s anger and energy. In my poem the penultimate statement, "I died last spring and sent my blood into the earth," does not convince. It overreaches.  

In a more recent poem, the title "Passage" implies a sense of movement, but here the movement is an internal one, not from place to place, but from one state of being to another. Also a poem about suffering, "Passage" relies on images of the natural world as well. (Some things don’t change.) The speaker is not, however, a spectator; the pain enters her, and she does not distance it. The speaker has, by accepting pain itself, become no other than the world. There is no boundary between them. The bird flies into her body, and it sings; there’s a river in her wrist. We know it’s a poem about loss; but what has been gained by loss is a fullness of being, a transformed being. The poem is one from my latest collection of poems, slated for publication in 2018—Not Hearing the Wood Thrush. In neither of the two poems of mine printed here is there an appeal to a Christian God. In "Passage," the road the speaker is on is the eight-fold path, the middle way.  I travel it still.


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Margaret Gibson is the author of ten books of poems and one prose memoir. Her newest book of poems, Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, will be published by LSU Press in the fall of 2018. A native of Virginia, now a resident of Preston, Connecticut, she is a nationally and internationally recognized poet. She has received numerous honors, including the Connecticut Book Award and the Melville Kane Award, and her collection The Vigil was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry.