Blessings, Yellow Mountain
I could have killed the snake.
I had a pistol in my belt, a 9mm, a Smith & Wesson,
accurate, deadly, and I was a good shot.I could have easily killed the snake.But Jack and I were walking his turf, walking federal land,
and he coiled so placidly
across the oak root, not even lifting his head
to acknowledge our passing.I could have killed him with one shot. Nobody
would’ve heard. We were miles
from the nearest road.
But Jack wasn’t even curious, and kept pulling me
up the path, sniffing the ground, lifting
a leg to piss on a stone.I studied the moccasin for a moment longer—
the fat and terrible muscle of him, his black scales rippling
while a small wind
brushed his back with shadows.Beautiful, sure, but I thought better of inching closer,
then followed the tug of Jack’s leash.
Over the top of the ridge
sunlight sliced in layers through the trees,
and suddenly out of the branch quiver,
an antler moved.
Copyright © 2018 by David Bottoms
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
David Bottoms is the author of ten books of poetry and has received the Walt Whitman Award, fellowships from the NEA and Guggenheim Foundation, and served as Poet Laureate of Georgia for twelve years. He currently holds the Amos Distinguished Chair in English at Georgia State University. (Author photo by Alice Rachel Bottoms)
David Bottoms explores otherness, the death of parents, and private spirituality. Images of rural Georgia confront the changing landscape of his memories where he searches for refuge in quiet places of prayer. Rooted in nature, Bottoms’ poetry affirms the “tenuous ways tenderness seeps into the world” and the loneliness inherent in memory. Memory is “smoke off a damp fire” as Bottoms explores absence, a contemplative inner life, and changing landscapes.
“[Bottoms] makes astounding leaps of both faith and doubt, and does so with insight, honesty, and flashes of anger―all characteristic elements of his work.”
―The Southern Review
“One finds here what one expects in a book of good Southern poems: clear narratives . . . evocative images, searching irony, and meditative poise.”
“Bottoms’ poems do what the best poems have always done: They compel us to reread them. They linger in our minds. They alter our perception of the world.”