The summer everything changed, I walked outPast the field, into the forest, toward the cleftIn the hill, on the darker side of the river.Our entire house could fit into this swollen gapNo father or grandfather could explain.Sitting on the edge, swinging my feet, I leaned backAnd fell, wrist-deep, into the body of a deer,Just a fawn, really, with no eyes. His mouth was open,His tongue black, swollen, vibrating with flies.My hand in his stomach, I looked up, up, pastThe sycamores, toward the sun, clotted by cloud.I did not do this. But my hand was inside him,And only the rustling of darkness over the treesBrought me to my feet.
“Cleave” from IN THE HANDS OF THE RIVER: by Lucien Darjeun Meadows.
Published by Hub City Press on September 13, 2022.
Copyright © 2022 by Lucien Darjeun Meadows.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Lucien Darjeun Meadows was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of what is now called Virginia and West Virginia to a family of English, German, and Cherokee descent. An AWP Intro Journals Project winner, he has received fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, American Alliance of Museums, American Association of Geographers, and National Association for Interpretation. His debut poetry collection, In the Hands of the River, is forthcoming from Hub City Press in September 2022.
Spartanburg, South Carolina
"Nestled in the hollers of Appalachia, Lucien Darjeun Meadows’ poems serve both as an ode and an elegy to the place of his upbringing. The poems of In the Hands of the River center on the body through which this landscape—and the stories of those who inhabit it—passes through. I admire this book for its unflinching, aching look at the intersection of queerness and Appalachia, for its complicated portrait of an absent father and a son’s self-demolition, for its attention to the beauty tucked within brutality. In the Hands of the River is an important, stunning debut."
—Jacques J. Rancourt, author of Brocken Spectre
"Singing deep and clear from the hollers of Appalachia, Lucien Darjeun Meadows offers us an extraordinary debut. The poet speaks at once from the interiors and the precipices of home, of heritage, of body and land, inhabiting both the lip of the well and its source. Each poem, each line, vines this book into a coming-of-age opus that is vivid and lush, fierce and arresting, luminous with wonder and heartbreak."
—Jennifer Elise Foerster, author of The Maybe-Bird