Adam Tavel

An Abandoned Fort in the Woods

the rotted dream of captives
its slant roof littered with acorns
wears the hiked light of Saturday
and spring’s last courtesy to frost

if we asked the son who nailed it
his ghost squealing still behind
moss-trunks green as river-skin
green as his bent bike archived

in the gully’s bright museum
of cabinets sinks and shower-heads
that once functioned with an ugliness
his parents labored to unmake

would he say the beams crumbled
even on the day he framed them
their discards square enough
one pure campaign of summer

would he say his cousin prisoners
were kindly lodged and hummed
until an aunt’s voice echoing hills
arose to break the latch



The Blue Daughters of Hotton
          December 1944

The night we burned our chairs I blessed the storm
for freezing hands that mortared snow, which slowed
their nearing booms, if only for one pass
of stars. I felt my fever cheeks unwince
as Nora told her dream again: brother back,
a bearded scarecrow, who woke us knocking
on windowpanes before rushing in to scoop
his baby up. Together they spun
buttons off his soldier’s coat. I didn’t weep
this time to hear it told, to have our dead
come warm the room—confused the phonograph
was gone, how gaunt our Christmas faces were
from want of bread. When gusts struck chimney cracks
we drank their smoke, until the wood ran out.



Adam Tavel’s third poetry collection, Catafalque, won the 2017 Richard Wilbur Book Award (University of Evansville Press, 2018). He is also the author of The Fawn Abyss (Salmon Poetry, 2017) and Plash & Levitation (University of Alaska Press, 2015), winner of the Permafrost Book Prize in Poetry. His recent poems appear, or will soon appear, in Verse Daily, The Georgia Review, Puerto del Sol, New Ohio Review, Sixth Finch, Salamander, Potomac Review, and American Literary Review, among others. You can find him online at