Pickup ( and other poems)


Grinning altar of twenty years warbling
variations of thriving light.
Hear that powdery sound of ashes.
Hear that crackling sound of unfired absolution.

Hear the warbling neighbors and grinning
children, nervous and amiable, a clashing 
band of flames dancing at the threshold.
Invalid tongues split reason.

The thing is, deep gentle reason shows
nothing called meaning. Dying levels
out. Still, imagine a hummingbird.
Those two wings curving a thousand

breathless cymbals. Imagine tongues split
and hear lungs ring the dying dance.
Sock-footed nothing. Dark matter.
Breathe in the traveling music. 


Put on the wheels of bird armor 
until the shade of Heaven 

confronts your breastbone.
Motionless metal mosaics

feature chariots and dog
faces blinking in the dazzling

eyepiece of rattling man.
Your weight threatens

my limbs. Cobblestones
curve and crown the silenced

mouth ablaze and shooting
cindery fevers to flower

the strange gaunt hand
and the beam of nailed wood.


Huddled deep-rooted in darkness
a cancer steadily speaks its office.

Hear with your eyes! Death changes 
flesh to sparkle, bodies to forest. 

Changes. Your song yet to drift 
beyond its window, yet to turn 

grasping secrets into hovering 
voices of light waking the sleeping 

source of the unclasped world. 
Open your palm and the grave.

Mouth and fingers plant the army
of light trees yet alive 

in that ultimate told and magical wood 
beyond the sun’s Easter choir.


Perceptive enough, the human gaze licks itself
with the fascination of sorrow. 

Line and curve glitter, and still 
unearthly arms require neither 

bird nor bush. Home holds the slack taste 
of changing leaves. A son still intently watches 

the cold dust drift earthward. Barns and graves 
shift and graze, confident the essence of fields 

will hold fixed in harmony beside churches 
and bejeweled branches. But love shifts in midair, 

itself not bitter or uneasy, forgetting 
the heart and the body, requiring no farewell.


Peer passed vibrant stalks of rain. Think of his absent face 
now uncaught by earth, light among stars. The man
is now stardust. His voice like the riddle of dreams.
Whoever unfailingly loves a cowboy, truly loves him, 
meets him hand-to-hand and head-to-head, a connection 
like home until falling is the only tangible move. The love 

allotted hurtles like raging stars to some tough and poetic parting. 

It waits forward unobstructed amongst the stringy sawgrass 
somewhere in the dead of winter, somewhere past the speed of light.


  • Darnell Arnoult is the author of the novel Sufficient Grace and the poetry collections What Travels With Us and Galaxie Wagon. She has received the SIBA Poetry Book of the Year Award, Mary Frances Hobson Medal for Arts and Letters, the Thomas and Lillie D. Chafin Award for Appalachian Writing, and the Weatherford Award. She lives in Mebane, North Carolina, where she continues to write, coach other writers in virtual gatherings, and critique manuscripts.

  • Images are stills from F.W. Murnau's film "Sunrise" (1927).