Who keeps falling for the sermons
I keep hearing to stop the story
as I whip the cattle in shape to determine
which ones survive the last boring
slaughter, the processing of the meat,
the packaging for the freezer the days
won’t let me forget even as the first feat
imagined lives by standards humans might laze
around until dust collapses waiting to roll
up the mattress, love the romance for sleep
now that schedules come into the fold,
yours, mine, the creatures in snowdrifts,
the winter of scribbles the farmers
make as big as planting crops
to adore waking up to alarms
on bedside tables in Pleasant Grove’s lots
while the tragedy rules; I hold my breath.
The graves do not stop growing for anything.
The truth is: there is no death
exemplifying friends or enemies, woes or sins.
SHELBY STEPHENSON was Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 2015-2018. His recent books are
Elegies for Small Game, winner of Roanoke-Chowan Award; Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl, winner of the Bellday Prize; Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill; and More.