Standard Time

James Brasfield Click to

jbrasfield-209James Brasfield’s collection of poems Ledger of Crossroads was published by LSU Press in 2009.  He has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Quartered deadfall from the hills, oak cut
to length, fresh still the smell of woodgrain,
a cord to heft, to calibrate angle and curve,
to fit, to balance high the stack
in rootless equilibrium.

As if to make a windbreak, stone on stone,
beside a mound of leaves—each leaf from its birth
notch to the black meld of compost—
I build on the birch I cut
and parceled last summer

and on the apple limbs trimmed,
their evenly spaced
woodpecker’s chiseled wells—
instinct’s measured patience,
the belly’s need.

Migrant, flocking in, or piling up,
clouds west of here, gray on gray
arrive from the sky pyre
dying out—the sky a vault now,
a stone basin overturned.

Back again, yesterday’s rain
to freeze, to splinter,
to rot what is, comes slowly on
the wind above the chill stillness.
The stack is made,

the tarp spread over for the rain,
for snow on this starless night at this return
to Standard Time, years of sap-driven life to burn,
to keep a self warm, to sleep awhile
down through ages of root and stone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


2 Responses to Standard Time

  1. Cassie McGinty says:

    This is one of my favorite poems in the new issue. James Brasfield’s diction is so precise and measured, you can’t help but picture the landscape described in the poem. The passage of time in relation to nature is artfully developed, creating a clear sense of the impact of cold on animals, insects, and the earth itself.

  2. David Kitchel says:

    I love this poem. It feels Dickinson-esque in it’s nature observed singing as psyche. I love being able to hear the poet read it, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.