Bill Griffin – Four Poems


Raccoons thank us
for building them this boardwalk;
they grudge us the wending
from maritime scrub to Currituck Sound,
yaupon to pickerel weed,
smilax to spartina and wavelets lapping;
at dusk they invite us to discover
whether sinister rustlings are simply
the sea-breeze turning eastward
or masked foragers come calling.
They’ve left us an oblation – scat –
and we ponder its flat seeds
until we look up to discover
frost has softened the persimmons.
Some philosopher would declare
this boardwalk represents
our lives and an opportunity
at last to learn something
from the crap we leave behind,
but the poet sees only native fruit
hanging out of reach. He becomes
all anticipation stretching up
on hind legs, little paws reaching
for something sweet.


Chattahoochee Chaos Theory

for my son

You are the cold spring that seeps
from a beard of moss,
enough slow drops to fill a palm-sized pool
where mud-brown salamanders sip
and wait,
enough to flow and overflow downmountain, shift
a molecule of silt then flow,
flow, twist and wind, coalesce to find
a passage for yourself, to grind
a gorge into the Georgia map
until a river powers past Atlanta
and a million people drink.

Oh you irresistible, you could have chosen
the next ridge west or any
of a million meanderings
to nudge the earth aside and work
your adolescent wearing down, discover
some other channel uncharted
and lead the builders of sprawl
north into Carolina.  But no, there’s gravity
to contend with, and density, here a pebble unyielding
and there the destiny
of granite strata too hard and grim
to erode . . . inevitable. You

are not the you you might have become,
you are the you
you are.


Need to Kill

He asks if he needs to kill you,
defers to my longer life
with snakes; I declare
you beautiful,
rich brown like cedar shakes,
herringbone along your spine,
pink flick obeisance
of tongue, but midlength
your body tapers
to mouse-sized swelling, this
and the harmless smooth
narrow of your head
are what save you.

And what if I really see
is your spade of a skull,
its double olfactory pits,
the crosses
tattooed in copper
down your back?  What
would I tell him?
No, I’d say, not today,
not this one,
no need.


Need to Live

At first I mistake you
for twigs beside the road,
brittle & branching
like long slender toes,
exactly like until
the pieces slip to fit:
stick legs arched & angled
past their spring,
your gray belly flattened and dry
as the leaf that covers it,
the thin line
that was your mouth.

And then I hear again
the great drops, I smell
March rainsplash,
see heavy water strike pavement
to leap back up
with frogs in it.
Tonight your rivals sing
their lovers to their sides;
what killed you
when it has died away, its cooling,
the emptiness it leaves,
is just what kills
the rest of us.