William Wright is the author of nine poetry collections, including Tree Heresies (Mercer University Press, 2015), Night Field Anecdote (Louisiana Literature Press, 2011), Bledsoe (Texas Review Press, 2011), and Dark Orchard (Texas Review Press, 2005). His poems have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, the Oxford American, The Antioch Review, Shenandoah, and the Southern Poetry Review. He currently serves as Writer in Residence at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
So sing hallelujah! as they douse the boy in river water.
So bring him up to find his eye lashes laced in silt—
so the congregants scowl at him, the odd one—
so red the mud smeared in his hair it looks as blood gone slag with sin,
he runs home in rain, his teeth chattering,
so the wind bites at him cold, even in May, the backroad mess
so bog-slocked and rock-slashed—and home now
so the family scatters from each other into their own nests,
so delicately built with least resentments—and the boy,
so tired, his ears crammed with biblical slosh, sleeps
so soundly, dreams of a girl he will never witness, her hair
struck red against the wetness of her lavender dress,
so lovely, lovely, that when he wakes he’ll walk the farm
so pocked with nails and crates and lichen-licked marl and think never
so much as now of the clay that makes him, the water that shapes him
so heavily, this land a trap, a friend.
Copyright (c) 2016 by William Wright. All rights reserved. “Upbringing” originally appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Oxford American. Wright will give a free public reading at the John C. Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on February 22, 2016, at 7 p.m.