at Length

Four Poems

—Tyree Daye

No Ghost Abandoned

We still celebrate
my Grandmother’s birthday
by frying a slab of fish,
smothering flounder
in Texas Pete,
chicken in Sweet Baby Ray’s,
someone puts on Marvin,
someone says I love you.

How can we lift enough
smoke to reach you?
Our cookout has the blues,
I can’t tell you why
I walk old country roads
looking for your spirit.

I hear you speaking
near the river,
where the water
slows against rocks.

My mother says
the best thing to do
is get addicted to God.

But I write from inside my body,
what’s the price of being
obsessed with the dead?
No ghost abandoned,
you mostly
speak of wind.

Someone put on Marvin,
someone say I love you.

In my purple bedroom,
I’ve heard a woman
long dead speak of gardens,
tomatoes, squash,
white tobacco flowers, lilies
are pretty, but they are weeds

By the elementary school
we used to pick sweet potatoes,
played games like
that’s my car,
that’s my house.

The lands murmurs
in our hands,
where to grow
the biggest melons,

the place where June Bug
finally died,
what’s so sweet
must be sacred.

We mended the horses
rubbed an old mane
until it was time,

you prepare
an old man for death
by reminding him
of his legs, of his work,

I can still see your silhouette
in the window like a kiss
to a father long gone.

In the kitchen where
I haven’t stepped-in today,
I can hear you
among the spoons
and butter knives
in the drawer.

What do you think
when you see my loneliness?
Living ghost? I must learn
the language of rain
to speak to plants
and the Genesis of how seed
turns to flower.


I was the unbroken horse
of that town, slept standing up,
held on to the breeze like wildflowers.

I kept caterpillars in jars,
my mother let them go,
I figured they just disappeared.

There are moments you can hear God
say things soft-spoken, the sun
settling between thin pines.

Collected crickets in 2 liter bottles,
dropped them in a path far from the house
one or two at the bottom drowning
in the last swig of cola, the smell of mama’s
leaf pile faint and almost gone.

My mother would say
to kill a cricket is a sin against the night.

For James Wright

I wish I wasn’t visible
in fields where I stare at the color green.

At the water’s edge gazing at a moving mirror,
wondering how many pairs of eyes

and shoes have drowned here
in this gallery of light, of brown glass?

I have become the quiet cat
that sits on the stairs.

If there is something perfect in life,
let it come now.

The River Goddess Speaks

Coal laughs at ashes not knowing its fate.

You are not like a child who when carried

only presses on my back, you press on every part of my body.

He has been shown to the dead.

Nobody can say they’ve settled anywhere forever,

it is only the mountains, which do not move.

What escapes a prairie fire?

What will your hands look like,

if we meet after you have gone

around the mountain?

Tyree Daye is a poet enrolled in the MFA program at North Carolina State University, and a longtime member of the editorial staff at Raleigh Review. Daye’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Sugared Water, HEArt, BOAAT, and Nashville Review, and he has poems forthcoming in Four Way Review. His chapbook, entitled Sea Island Blues, was published by Backbone Press in 2014. Tyree recently released a new chapbook entitled What You and The Devil Do to Stay Warm with Blue Horse Press in 2015, won the Amy Clampitt Residency for 2018 and The Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award for his poems in the Fall 2015 issue. He is a Cave Canem fellow.