Stuart Gunter : Poetry : January 2020

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Richmond, Virginia. I play drums in a band called Wrinkle Neck Mules. We recorded part of an album in Helen, Georgia. And I play drums in one called Chamomile & Whiskey, too. We’re about to record in Nashville. I love the South, in all its complexities, including (but not limited to) live oaks and magnolia trees, dogwoods and cardinals, Duke’s Mayonnaise, spring peepers, tomato sandwiches, and The Bitter Southerner. I drink whiskey, and I live in Schuyler, Virginia, right near the Rockfish River. I correspond by e-mail with John T. Edge, even though we have never met in person. And I honeymooned in New Orleans.

Three Poems

Soul Jar
For Kevin Crowe

I will have the potter
down the road
throw my soul jar,
burning his weird
signature to it in the kiln,
building the clay vessel
that will carry my own

barbaric soul, ashes to ashes
dust to dust, like the mist
rising just before the sun
burns it away.
I tend to think I am
a better person
than I am, this long

cadence of drum beats,
sapid in my memory,
reminding me to breathe,
to place my soul
in the hunping that
will be revealed
at my funeral,

the music fading
to black, the credits
rolling on my life:
he was a good
man, maybe. Simple.
Complex. Let’s
read the text.

What I Think About When I Think About Writing
For Ron Smith & Brady Earnhart

The blank page. The sharpened pencil. My
mind wanders right away. To the woodpile
where the old axe leans against the stump, ready
for me to split some fatwood. What shape will
this poem take? Will it be depressed, like Ignatow’s,
or will the reader read it like it’s supposed to be
read: Collins urging us to waterski across its surface?
No, I don’t think about that. I think about Carver’s
living room furniture out on the lawn and why didn’t

I think of that first? Or Dr. Johnson and his broken table.
My main man Gilbert wants it to resemble a rectangle.
A rectangle with something to say. I think about everything
else other than what the writing is doing. The clouds in
the sky. The moon. Especially the moon. So, I will write
this rectangle, put it in the drawer for a while, send it to
my friend Brady for editing and excising, and then send
it off into the ether, to be accepted or most likely rejected,
and then, perhaps, just maybe, read by dozens and dozens.

Gypsy Moths
North Mountain, 1991

Standing on the slopes of North
Mountain, if we quieted ourselves
we could hear them dropping frass.
Thousands of tiny moth mouths gorging
on leaves above us in the green canopy
we often climb in, and then shitting it out.
Their tents bagged with larvae, a million
acres destroyed by a scientific experiment
gone awry. The escapees flying south
and west eating and fucking their way
through the trees. We, young dudes
tasked with taking city kids into
forests, to conserve the land, to teach
stewardship of the earth, to discuss
Leopold, Muir, and Abbey—especially
Abbey—infamous misogynist and
philanderer who measured distances
in 6-packs, littering the highway with
his empties: It’s a fucking road! he
would retort when confronted. We
(kids ourselves) stand slackjawed
with wonder at the sound: leaves
tearing into mouths intent on
gluttony and survival.