from the Prologue: Fiddledeedee

by Shelby Stephenson

2015 North Carolina poet laureate


I went back home and held my eyes on the hill

and it said You need a word deeper than I

so I took the old fencerails the lizards ran

and my family’s tongue came out of the Mouth

of Buzzard’s Branch, the sound of that one story,

everywhere, in the marshes, in the fields

and lowgrounds, and I said Where is the word

that holds All I am trying to say? —

and the cows lowed through their cuds over

and over it is nothing but a song – the long journey home:

Slow Man Barbour rode his Cushman

pooter-scooter and parked it when we played

cow-pasture ball: I used to run in from the hayfield

to see what Ralph Kiner had done that day:

he was my man to break the Babe’s homerun

mark, a chance to have somebody stand up

to bat for me: can I make a motion

for home, for home, motion, the third-base coach might say

is slow, out of time, the squeak and sound of

footsteps—my wife coming home, coming to a place

we call home? The shifting winds catch her voice

full in her breasts; dark-throated locusts

dusk their beasts of sounds—home in the spine

which sitteth uneasily, the body

sensual still, all those mockingbirds

riffling feathers at the first suggested intrusion,

the low footage, getting a toe-hold this place

will be yours someday and here we are, the workers

mostly gone, the Bee Martin

out on the marker at the end of the drain,

catching insects come home to rest: I was

born in that house in the hedge, the dogyard

outback, the mulestables, chickens running

free, the hogpen homey with grunts and

tail-twitches—that’s it, the tall pile of wood

Percy Bolling cut for the stove in the kitchen,

the Home Comfort Range, that’s it.