Pick-a-Poem: Eliot Khalil Wilson

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Hello, blog readers, and welcome to another Pick-a-Poem post. In case you don’t know, the weekly Pick-a-Poem post is when we choose a poem to feature here on the blog. Generally we find these poems thanks to Poetry Daily, a great site that features a new poem every day. So if you want to see more new poetry, be sure to check out the site! Today we feature Origin Blues: An Elegy by Eliot Khalil Wilson.

According to his bio page on Poetry Daily, Eliot Khalil Wilson has written one collection of poetry, which is entitled The Saint of Letting Small Fish Go. His work has also appeared in various publications, including Ploughshares, The New England Review, and The Southern Review. He has also received several awards, such as a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart prize.

Origin Blues: An Elegy by Eliot Khalil Wilson

I come from the leaning jack and the shattered rib,
the blasting cap and the phantom thumb;
I come from the chorus sway of pine, the boat ramp baptisms
and the great black skillet of relentless June.

I come from a long line of blighted cotton,
squinting through years of just plowing sand.
I come from the robbing land, the great pyramids
of fire ants, the tar paper, the tin can shingles.

I come from the coffee and Chesterfield dawn,
I come from the tender-mouthed crappie and the warmouth perch;
afraid of bankers, afraid of police car spotlights,
skies turning green and packs of wild dogs in the corn at night.

And I believe what they say about my blood:
a tick’s grip, mule resolute, hacksaw spined,
overtime on the foundry’s knock-out line,
the bottom dog, the oysterman fighting the tide
though every night the tide gathers its things and leaves.

So, old man, grandfather dead forty years,
I know too well what hangs in our tool-shed souls.
Not in the ground only are your spavined bones,
not in the ground only is the white rind of your skull.

I come from the barbed-wire pasture
and the horse’s punctured throat, I come from water oak,
I come from the beached blue crab cornered by gulls.
My not going back and your not leaving—exactly the same.

I come from rented land
though you planted clear to the kitchen door,
though the furrows matched the whorls of your thumb.

And I will tell you the most of my memory of you
now that you live in the mirrors of your kin:
Five years old and I stood on your shoulders
up through the green light of the burdened trees
to reach the hidden sunset peaches.
You held my calves to the side of your head, held me fast,
and though the wasps on the ground stung you and stung you,
you would not let me fall.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem! For more of the poem posts, click here.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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