Matthew Wimberley

Silent for Years, He Returns at Daybreak as a Light Wind

The boy who cut my leg
late July in the summer of ’96
is in prison now—somewhere
in Kansas or North Dakota
geese coming down a long sky
out beyond
the cold cinderblocks of want—
their turning: gray as
the smoke from an arson,
or all the crimes left for a fatherless
child to commit, crying
in the dark.

          When I touch the scar, the skin
is cold and glints belly-bright
like the bodies of fish I’d catch
and leave along the stream’s
implacable edge, the lick of water—
dactyls on ruddy stones. This time
I won’t curse him under my breath.
I won’t call his number in the lineup.
Today, I found three Junco eggs
trampled—their pinkish shells
silent as the steam of morning,
the grasses gilded in sun
and crushed into their patterns
by a passing Halflinger’s

          cantor as she went along the fence line
and disappeared toward Teaster’s junkyard
and the country club airstrip
and the road my mother drove down
five days a week for twenty years
to teach children in the metallic heat
of radiators; the warmth of dust and laquear
worked into the wood grain
polished enough to see your face there
as if looking into a parallel life
where you could have been
left to feed yourself, and wash your hair,
and try to be good with nothing
in your stomach. Today

          I want to want to believe he could
have stepped through the doors
at the replica of Christ’s Tomb
outside the Baptist Church on the edge of town
and returned a prayer come true.
Watching him once, on the threshold
of adolescence and consequence,
his shoulders hung— his shoulders hunched
into the shape of a light wind
through the culms of grama,
bluestem, and panic grasses,
which would have said everything
if I’d listened closely, I recall
how small he looked, how tired,
almost starved and so thin
—a second hand already
gone by its mark at seventeen.

          This morning
I followed those tracks through
the wet field thinking what else
might have been; mystery
and the hard taste of bread,
whoever you are.



To My Child, In Her Sickness, The Heart of Fall

Daughter of all my oblivions
the hard grasses
dusted in frost, the horse
and the bull who stand
at each other’s shoulders—
their damp fur and cursive
vapors, the rattle of exhaust pipes
rusted loose from the frame
and ten-mile stretches
of roads where no cars appear
coming from the direction
I’m headed toward now—
there is a moon that hangs
above a row of silhouetted pines
in my memory, that first night
in the hospital when you struggled
to breathe and to sleep
and could only turn your head
just so, the shadow as it shifts
on a sun dial. I had to watch close.
These last three nights
have been hell.
I go home and drink wine
left open on the counter
sifting fruit flies
in my teeth and go out
into the night and begin
to curse whatever might be listening.
Cousin of prayer and wind
of the cold and the burning
of stars up above, I have no desires
anymore worth the scuff
of my boots in gravel
beyond wanting to carry you
into this air and home.



Matthew Wimberley is the author of two collections of poetry, Daniel Boone’s Window (LSU, 2021) and All the Great Territories (SIU, 2020). Winner of the Weatherford Prize from the Appalachian Studies Association, Wimberley lives and teaches in the Blue Ridge Mountains where he grew up.