It took me a few reads, but I really liked the poem by David Huddle in last week’s New Yorker.
At first, I couldn’t place the scene he was describing. Interestingly enough, the first thing I searched for were photographs of “Appalachia” in the Library of Congress. The hill countries and knotted forests, the dying trees on the coal-mined mountains, the long driveways full of old cars. The houses, rotting and peeling, peering into yards through the barrier of wrap-around porches.
But my search wielded nothing, so I moved on to image of the desert, and then images of my own, from Patagonia. Then I did a search on “porches,” and then “porches with rain” and then “porches with lonely men” and came up with nothing but photographs of William McKinley, and Roosevelt, and this tender doubled image of an elderly lady sitting next to an desolate looking bird cage.
So I looked at David Huddle’s biography. It turns out that he’s from back-country Virginia, and has occasionally been called an “Appalachian writer.” My original hunch at been correct.
The closest I could think of illustrating his particular brand of loneliness and longing for death were Sally Mann’s photographs of the deep South. So here they are, together.
The vultures of this landscape came to call
this morning—found a bare-limbed tree outside
my kitchen window, settled in & held
my gaze, big tar blobs against a milky sky:
We understand you, their presence informed me,
And I you, I told them in silence.
this day can’t make up its mind—sun’s half out
but rain’s in those clouds. It it’s that cold wind—
driven stuff that swats your eyes like a drink
full of crushed ice thrown in in your face, I’ll stay
indoors, count my failures & petty crimes,
loathe my life, and completely understand
why friends and loved ones keep their distance.
The barometer yo-yos my mental state—
one day I’m a happy old dude, kitchen
dancer, car-driving harmonizer, hilltop
walker delighted by the world.
it’s the big not, the mega-never. And where
are you breeze-blown death birds now that I need you?
This mean rain’s rotting the starch right out of me.
Come down from your perch, my beauties, I’m
opening doors and windows, I’m looking for snacks
in the back of the fridge. Here—try roosting
on this chair back. Please just sit with me
around my table. I’ll hold up both ends
of our conversation. It’s like forever
I’ve wanted to talk to you. Here—let me
turn off these lights—I know you like the dark.