Samuel Prestridge: “New Highway Promises Development for Local Communities”

“New Highway Promises Development for Local Communities”
                                     The Starkville Daily News
 
The new highway skirts struggling towns obscured 
by second-growth—black jack saplings, pin oak, 
scrub pine decked with hand-struck signs for still-born 
cafes, yard sales, deer skinners, promises 
of God’s wrath, purchases non-refundable.
 
I wonder who could live in these small towns. 
I tell the trees, Not me.  I still look, though,  
still try to see how, within their limits, 
mysteries keep them seething.  Having failed 
with farming, having wheeled to fail at retail, 
 
their faith’s in resurrection.  New highways.  
In buyers who’ll slab jack foundations, 
true frames, gingerbread all the worn storefronts.  
Paint the whole into a groggy, pastel wet dream 
with awnings, stratocumulus, lighting subdued
 
to shade by day, illuminate by night.  
The latest iterations in gutter 
technology, sewers gussied up.  
Rains falling like money will hurry away, 
down to the channelized river. Its banks 
 
will blossom with summer homes.  Angelic 
water skiers’ wash will lap the cut bank, 
will rinse mulish roots, will swamp the hand-struck 
signs I’d have placed there:  “No trespassing.”  
“Free rooster.”  “Chickens, fresh brown eggs for sale.” 


About the Author: Samuel Prestridge, a post-aspirational man, lives and works in Athens, Georgia. He sometimes plays acoustic blues and jazz in local bars under an assumed name. He has been published in Literary ImaginationThe Arkansas ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewAs It Ought to Be, Better Than Starbucks, Autumn Skies, among others.

Image Credit: Marion Post Walcott “Signs advertising liquor stores are seen frequently along all Kentucky highways. South of Bardstown” (1940) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Samuel Prestridge: “Coyote”

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Coyote

The night before my 68th,  I dreamed

of walking a bookmarked scrap of land.

I saw a coyote following me.

He wasn’t threatening, just staring,

just sizing me up.  I didn’t want to

be sized up.  I walked the other direction.

He followed, ran to me, heeled.

We walked together.

I ignored him.  He stayed heeled.

We came to an abandoned stable, walked in.

I stopped in front of a stall.

The coyote climbed up the door,

arced his body across the gap, gracefully draped himself

              across my shoulders.

I stood there, not wanting to move, the coyote

snugged against me.  Maybe I worried

about fleas.  Maybe I was guarding his sleep.

               I don’t know how long I was still and quiet.  I don’t know

how time is measured there.

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About the Author: Samuel Prestridge lives and works in Athens, Georgia.  He has published or has forthcoming articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, The Southern Humanities Review, The Lullwater Review, The Arkansas Review, Autumn Skies, and Better Than Starbucks.

Regarding his approach to writing, he says, “I write poetry because there are matters that cannot be directly stated, but are essential to the survival of whatever soul we can still have.  Also, I’m no good at interpretive dance, which is the only other options that’s occurred to me.”

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Image Credit: Illustration taken from Wild animals of North America Washington, D.C.,The National geographical society[c1918] Public Domain. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Samuel Prestridge: “Feeder”

 

 

Feeder

Scrabbling colors–birds rioting seed,
a broadcast punctuated
by squirrels
                         as I hand feeders
from limbs, rails, poles, to my short wife.
She fills them, hands them back,
a Saturday task done
for luck, for variegated finches;
dull republican sparrows; blue jays,
braying fundamentalists; and,
this morning, one bald cardinal—
alopecia or a mate’s black
savagery.
                     The morning rhymes
with dirt-roads, years arranging
rearrange the evenings’ crows’
F’koff! F’koff! or hearing one night, two cold
stanzas into a poem that gave me only
two, a fluttering, then silence quilting
the beat before the rasping, bitter
call of the existentialist bird,
pure pique drawn naked
over a cheese grater. 
                                         It cried once,
flew away, never returned,
or at least, I never heard it.
But there’s a resonance, even now,
something in me saying Yes . . . yes, you’re right.  

Sometimes, it’s just like that.     

Not for what we offer, birds come,
not because not offering would keep them
here or away. 
                             Small charities suggest,
suggest, suggest, suggest, each repetition
feting the air thicker, stubbing any move
against an ignorant amazement
that isn’t anything but a lack 
of anything else. 

Once, Fort Worth, I saw Deke Birds fall
from St. Patrick’s cathedral.  Conical lumps
sprouted wings, veered upward inches from smash,
worked air to gabled roof peak
for yet another hurling.
                                                 They didn’t feed as they fell,
weren’t gaudy about it, weren’t attracting mates.
The plunge was itself, the rushing down,
wings clamped to succor a plummet
so intense it seemed a longing,
a sidewalk smack avoided
by a feather’s breadth. 
                                            Dropping,
they sang, their cry, a large tear
drawn upward through a slide whistle.

I don’t know all the birds outside
our window, don’t want to know,
don’t know why, but we feed them,
not for what’s done, but that they’ve come,
that they’re here, and we know as much. 

                It’s not so much a hoping
as a way of living in lieu of.  We do; 
they come.  They’d come, anyway,
but in our doing, we welcome
the scrabbling wings, the hunger
toward which we raise our hands.

 

 

About Samuel Prestridge: I live and work in Athens, Georgia.  I have published articles, poems, essays, and interviews in a wide range of publications, including Literary Imagination, Style, Appalachian Quarterly, Paideuma, Poem, and The Southern Humanities Review.  

 

Image Credit: Illustration from A popular handbook of the birds of the United States and Canada,. Boston,Little, Brown,1903. Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.