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Sample Poems by Kevin McElvey



Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program
-Richard Nixon, February 8, 1972

One of the first environmental goals
I set when I took office
was to stimulate the program
to identify and recommend
new wilderness areas.

I am therefore directing
the Secretaries of Agriculture
and the Interior to accelerate
the identification of areas
in the Eastern United States
having wilderness potential.



Into the Deam

Clouds expand. Rain.
The narrow trail tracks into nothing but pine.
I follow the dry creek that bisects
this parabola of ridge.
Goosebumps signal temperature drop
and barometric shift.
Pine needles rust the forest floor.

No bearings. Trees block horizon.
Anvilheads tango with moisture,
a second canopy. Lightning.
I cannot not stand under a tree.
Super-heated air pressure: thunder.
Unending pine forest and high acid
in fallen needles beget this monoculture.

I hustle back up the hollow
into hardwoods and feel the thunder
down to my spine and hips. No time to piss.
Like this-inclement thunderstorm,
full bladder, soft ground, fumbling search-
women who said they loved me left me.

Green sky, rain starts thicker than briars,
the canopy no protection against tornado.
High winds buck tree crowns like cheap toys.
I abide with wind to carry me miles away.
No let up. My clothes cling to me
like I have fallen wholly in a muddy river.
I only worry my field guides stay dry.

The rain insulates. The pines protect.
I stop and take off my bandana
to let the downpour beat away sweat and DEET.
I look up into the green cumulonimbus:
"What a fool," I say to myself
not for the first time, "what a fool."


First Meeting

Down the trail he tramps, shoe and shirtless,
a head taller than me, maybe seven feet.
Leather hat and suspenders dyed blood-dark,
pants the red of hard maples' fall blaze.
His sweat sheens like tree sap.
Since we're both tall, the ranger told me
the Forest Service lets him cantankerize,
figures he'll die off eventually.
Horse owners complain about spooked stock.
No one will find his sycamore-tree shack twice.
"You must be Derrick," I say.
"Darrig, boy, Darrig MacSheever."
I tell him my good Scot-Irish name,
ask if he's sighted any unique species.
"You have any barbecue?" he asks.
"I already ate all the filberts and hickories."


Darrig MacSheever's Blackwell Token

Don't ever go swimming in Blackwell Pond.
Watch for that quarryman choked
by a snapped chain that slingshotted
round his neck better than a noose.
Watch for that quarryman who ignored
the blast whistle in the talus below
the working ledge, dreaming of
his dead baby who bled his wife to death.

Never dangle your feet long in this pond.
Move, kick, swim, tread, or splash.
These quarrymen crushed here
will haul you down armpull by armpull
on block and tackle to trade fates,
then laugh at you as they float up
through forty feet of black water,
offer to sledgehammer your soul into gravel.

Never dip your head under, not one second.
That boy who drowned here in '67
will latch on your shoulders
like cut limestone and make you tread
while his momma shrieks and howls
and his daddy jumps in too late
as you both bob the surface
three times before sinking.