Skip to main content
By Charles Wright

Sunday, September Sunday … Outdoors,

Like an early page from The Appalachian Book of the Dead,   

Sunlight lavishes brilliance on every surface,

Doves settle, surreptitious angels, on tree limb and box branch,   

A crow calls, deep in its own darkness,

Something like water ticks on

Just there, beyond the horizon, just there, steady clock …


Go in fear of abstractions …

                                                       Well, possibly. Meanwhile,

They are the strata our bodies rise through, the sere veins   

Our skins rub off on.

For instance, whatever enlightenment there might be   

Housels compassion and affection, those two tributaries   

That river above our lives,

Whose waters we sense the sense of

                                                                   late at night, and later still.


Uneasy, suburbanized,

I drift from the lawn chair to the back porch to the dwarf orchard   

Testing the grass and border garden.

A stillness, as in the passageways of Paradise,

Bell jars the afternoon.

                                            Leaves, like ex votos, hang hard and shine   

Under the endlessness of heaven.

Such skeletal altars, such vacant sanctuary.


It always amazes me

How landscape recalibrates the stations of the dead,

How what we see jacks up

                                                  the odd quotient of what we don’t see,   

How God’s breath reconstitutes our walking up and walking down.   

First glimpse of autumn, stretched tight and snicked, a bad face lift,

Flicks in and flicks out,

                                            a virtual reality.

Time to begin the long division.


Charles Wright, “The Appalachian Book of the Dead” from Black Zodiac. Copyright © 1997 by Charles Wright. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved.

Source: Black Zodiac (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1997)

  • Living
  • Nature
  • Religion

Poet Bio

Charles Wright
Influenced by his rural Southern roots as well as his love for Italy, Charles Wright’s poetry explores nature and spirituality. The author of over 20 books of poetry, his style has evolved over the years into what many critics classify as postmodern. Wright’s 1997 collection Black Zodiac won the Pulitzer Prize. In 2014, he was named Poet Laureate of the United States.

More By This Poet

More Poems about Living

Browse poems about Living

More Poems about Nature

Browse poems about Nature

More Poems about Religion

Browse poems about Religion