Oak

Atsuro Riley

We were all of us empty of its heft and Tammy could tell.      •  Being she herself was (wildling) (loosestrife-weed)(undaddied) same as us.      •  Flung chaff-motes that we wereshe saw to tell us time and time that yonder oak its bark and bulk.      •  She harped on it; she rendered.   Instilled-elucidated treeness piece by part.      •  Have I said yet (howsoever she'd've told us) it was never it to her but him.      •  As in I school myself   I climb the bluff   I followfeel the roots of  him.   They river-bound They gnarlin' up from mud [black pluff!] He veins the bank.      •  Some say.  Word was.—That her (fleetblooded) actual daddy jacked the toll-thru (humps the trains).      •  She dwelled on it; she brooded.   Elaborated-fleshed for us especially much his arms.      •  How one mossy brawn-span she favoredhad been scathed (engraved along its length) by lightning.      •  How the long-muscled (strict, striated) river-hanging-over one would hold.      •  You could loop a rope there Nearabout the bicepWhap you up a wide horsehead knot to grip.   To ride good Rid fear Let'snot feature no blackflow flowin' down below.      •  Cling strong till your hands numb till your blood goes.Swing low.   You could bellow you could holler while you're at it (Bending with younot to break) You could set yourself swayin' till kingdom come Till he hears you till      •  he weighs you.  You could ring rightful like the tongue of a bell.

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Atsuro Riley is the author of Heard-Hoard (University of Chicago Press, 2021), winner of the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Romey’s Order (University of Chicago Press, 2010), winner of the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Believer Poetry Award, and the Witter Bynner Award from the Library of Congress. This fall, his poems will appear in A Public Space and a new anthology, Home: 100 Poems (ed. Christian Wiman). Brought up in the South Carolina lowcountry, Riley lives in San Francisco.

"A landscape charged with the bright light of discernment, where emotions are stirred by rhythmic torsion and sonic density."
—Julie Carr, judge, Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America

"The essential collection of our moment—what we've needed most without knowing it."
—Jesse Nathan, McSweeney's

"The category of the 'mythic' has been much cheapened by overuse, but Atsuro Riley's Heard-Hoard restores the term to its original and originary power. The English language has rarely been so richly augmented in so little space."
—Linda Gregerson

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