Sometimes his body betrays him;
his skin creates insects out of air
crawling up his legs; his throat
opens and shuts like a trap door,
his nose not open at all.
Sometimes his heart heaves
in his chest, lungs quicken,
stomach sours, rises, overflows.
He says the night is like two lights,
one yellow, one white,
one rising, one falling, each
bearing its own cross of illumination.
Sometimes his mind refuses
to sleep in this body, walks out
at night naked and alone.
He knows (they constantly tell him)
it would be easier to give things up,
to leave certain stones unturned,
certain things undone. But he says
to himself, or whoever will listen,
“I will deny nothing I’ve seen
night or day. I will carry every part
of what I know in the warm pocket
of my mouth like words, breath,
like life’s first voice gently
touching the length of my tongue.”
Scott Owens‘ tenth collection of poetry, Shadows Trail Them Home, is due out from Clemson University Press this fall. His prior work has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Pushcart Prize, the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina. His poems have been in Georgia Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Poetry East among others. He is the founder of Poetry Hickory, editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and 234, and vice president of the Poetry Council of North Carolina. Born and raised in Greenwood, SC, he teaches at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC.