Doug Ramspeck: “The Names in the Clearing”


The wild grass here believes in quiet. It lifts itself
in scattered tufts to follow the shallow body

of the creek. There is the feeling of attribution here.
The sense that the trees hold themselves forever in abeyance.

And that to leave this empty space is a way of claiming
something. The dead know the trick of excelling

at the long pause. My mother would collect the names
for me, waiting until my next visit, then one by one

would list her friends who had recently died. She gave
each name its own small space of evaporating breaths.

Once I brought her to this clearing. She walked so slowly
by then that each moment seemed hollowed out. Then we stood

in this opening between the trees, the sky a silent aperture
above us, the sun a stalled wagon amid the clouds.

Doug Ramspeck is the author of seven poetry collections, one collection of short stories, and a novella. One recent book, Black Flowers, is published by LSU Press. Five books have received awards: Distant Fires (Grayson Books Poetry Prize), The Owl That Carries Us Away (G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction), Original Bodies (Michael Waters Poetry Prize), Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize for Poetry). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Slate, and Georgia Review.

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