Kevin Heaton is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma, and now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Guernica, Rattle, Raleigh Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Adroit Journal, and The Monarch Review. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.
I rise from black dirt, reconciled to mallows
slaked in deep swallowtail kisses, fretting blues
riffs to lick the fog from off the prairie. My yang
for this place is the yin in its ground;
the stock and staple of my talk. Its outcroppings,
more earthy than hallowed, hitched to walking
plow calluses too poor to miss depressions.
And yet, a provender of sorts: an olio of King
Biscuit Flour, lard corn dodgers, and loose leaf
tobacco twist doled out to mildewed gunny sacks,
hung on half crushed millstones to never dry.
There’s a jubilee here that began as a prayer
where humid evenings come to listen. More refrain
than spirit at first, but even so, a voice: one
that would free this songbird from her thorn, and revive
her with a psalm—a hymn, in a tongue for every color,
distant but resounding: own-rolled, scored with folklore
and cipherings, grist to mill and list into river bottom
dusters, dis privies with old chamber pots, and bury
company store tokens in dandelion tumbledowns
still cottoning to brassy ordnance; pawned
to one-armed bandits in sundering Woolworth parishes.
Cyclones that began as gusts with gales of their own,
fanning seed for more flowers—boasting blossoms
much too handsome to heart half bloomed.
~First published in Beloit Poetry Journal
Westers dust God’s chalk
off of clouds—
We squash chrysalis worms
spinning kaleidoscopes, then leave
the church without a blessing.
There are daffodils.
Volunteer priests spring up
in open-air temples—
turn grit into pearls.
I’ve seen spurned men learn
calluses. They douse hot coals
with sweat drops, and plant
seed corn in ashes next to dead
fish. Children rise up and call
serve tea to the plowmen.
Rivers scythe oak trees
like dormant grass—
polished stones hold them close.
~First published in A Clean, well-lighted Place
Pausing for Rainbows
This is time to pause for rites of passage.
To nestle in the interim. A time for lucid
thought & meditation. To mediate the carom
tipple, ponder leaf fossil, amber, flint—
determine which came first.
A time for brooks to sprint, backfill glory
holes, & sluice downstream as shekel
tributes to the God of downspout rhythms.
Time for fingerlings to stretch, temper,
arch & hue in reflective pools, then fledge
as incandescent lasers of prism light.
This is time to pause—
& witness rainbows learn to fly.