Bill Brown grew up in West Tennessee ten miles from the Mississippi River. He is the author of eight poetry collections and a creative-writing textbook. Formerly the director of the writing program at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville, he was named a Distinguished Teacher in the Arts in 1995 by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and the 2011 Writer of the Year by the Tennessee Writers Alliance.
As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears…
The path that led to your childhood creek
was always new. A rabbit, a tortoise, a ribbon snake—
your direction altered by wonder.
There was no test on where you ended up.
It wasn’t about how to climb a tree,
but which tree looked lonely without you—
the maple with fall red leaves,
the natural ladder of magnolia limbs,
the creek birch where hummingbirds waited.
The child inside amazed, unstructured time
a blessing—you’re lost already if you
always know your destination. Pick a day
when rain dots a window, clouds hug treetops,
a day when you’d like to carry a blanket
over your shoulders like a boy playing Superman.
Let the cat out, let yourself out, time doesn’t wait
like a set clock. Bless the porch rocker that rocks
empty in a storm. Bless the armrests that invite
small hands to grip cracked paint, bless the worn
and faded, how comfort comes with old things.
Bless a journey without legs; no need to stand
when eyes walk the forest edge. Bless shadows
trees make when sunlight breaks through
rain clouds. Bless the small accidents of the world—
the barn mow hole weathered into a crooked smile.
Bless the barred owl that lives in the rafters,
and the nightly journey of hunger and death
when its way appears.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Bill Brown. All rights reserved. “The Way” was originally published in Tar River Poetry and will appear in Brown’s forthcoming collection, Elemental, which is due in September 2014. Bill Brown will give a free public reading on May 22, 2014, at 7 p.m. in the Fondren Building at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.