“Luthier,” “Aubade to Replace the Sounds of Morning,” “Draining the Lake,” and “After the shipwreck.” (Emerging Writer's Contest Winner: POETRY)
Poetry judge Natalie Diaz said, “These poems have a lexicon and language all their own. They build each body—body of person, body of land or sea—with a precision and a sensuality that comes from understanding there are more than five senses. A reader is given the gift of feeling the silences, the touches, the strengths and tendernesses of these bodies. The energy in the poems is quiet yet palpable, as if writing them down was a risk, a danger—as poems should be, maybe—a danger to see, to feel, to return to in memory or imagination.”
Andy Eaton is an American poet currently living in Belfast, where he studied at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. He has received awards from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His poems appear in or are forthcoming from the American Literary Review, Copper Nickel, Narrative, Poetry Ireland Review, and Yale Review. He lectures at Oxford Brookes University and is at work on his first collection.
“These poems were written out of listening. They are not transcriptions, but versions of language I have in a sense even overheard from a voice I never knew, what my father’s father culled from memory and put on tape—narratives, songs, of labour and war. I always remember we share the same name, and I felt the gap between our lives even more palpable through the double bind of his present voice but absent body. So I listened as close as I could. And these poems are my reply; I take his silence as part of their music. At some level, I think, every poem is a way of writing back to the dead. Which is to say, the living need to hear each other remember.”
men in camp hear voices not just
wind inside Yoshida’s chime it’s glinting
perforating out our year then years
if I had known I would have thought
to put together one story for each
note I heard there to tell a man
whose mind has slipped away no one’s
letter came I imagine tossing those
we would have written from the side
of a final ship to take us home pink
yellow light blue envelope confetti
to a sea that looks rubbed like wax
each licked and folded packet a voice
on a gust then a wave tipping
back it soaks and breaks it soaks
and breaks off from itself
You hide the chopped bamboo stalks in the secret bottom
of the tool cart, then carry them under your stained
shirt to the barracks. Lay them down in lines like bones
across the wooden bunk you sleep on, to order, work
all night releasing your own dim imperatives. Dip
a rag into the moon in the puddle at your feet.
Slake stems with caught rain to peel their fray, untwine the green
from the pale flesh. A hollow in the curve is the space
where notes nest, tension in the strings what sings. Build in darkness
the gift you draw, the bow in the middle of our room.
Aubade to Replace the Sounds of Morning
You drink rain from a plastic cup.
Light gathers like flies
on the red meat of today. Itch of green
fatigues, a little baggier,
the legs inside them narrow flint sticks.
Song of light, and song of strong air,
heat which leaves a bug in the ear. Morning
is the echo of sleeplessness. You get up.
Which is to say, all you do is listen.
God might be the salty wind reminding you
of somewhere you can’t get to. And when the guard
smokes, the guard smokes. You start to imagine
the wisps as his breath in a cooler air,
but stop. Your suffering partly is to resist
the endless imagining of an otherwise.
I am telling you
this from a time long gone.
In my heart is a screen
door, a dress, a hand
on its other side. What you eat today
will not cure your hunger. What you eat
today will not cure your hunger.
Draining the Lake
The hush of water
from our buckets down
the bamboo runner
past our bamboo prison
gate. I never
heard it hit
the sea, but I imagined
that sound a lot.
After the shipwreck
we swim out further
from the current, and I do
look back—see the ship
slip to a whale’s
moan, the split hull
hung like a broken arm
folded into shadow under
my feet, holding
ash, and blood washes
over you, behind us now
around all of us (somewhere)
how the filled chamber
of your mouth