A.E. Stringer 

Sunday Morning, Cumberland Gap

Black cat appears under my roadside
picnic table. The Frame Shop is closed,
flags swaying. I walked here 
from the next town through an old 
railroad tunnel, two-step echo. 

Raw rock walls overlook
the valley, as they have
since before the westward road. 
Glaring quiet, no one leaves 
the church; perhaps no one 
went in.  

A forties-era pickup sits behind 
a white BMW. Passerby asks 
if anything’s open. Bright. Green.  
Catalpa tree.

Art show on a corner, then 
back through the mountain 
to my own time.


Honeysuckle Engagement

Another faded June, walking a dog
now dead, coming home through
the back yard, I caught your scent,
muddle of jasmine and naphtha.  
Innocuous blossoms twined
in weeds at the base of the slope.  
I took some pleasure 

in those fragrant days. Then
a decade, two, I saw too much
of you, dug in as your issue 
skirted the yard, shoots 
bangling the hill, spindly Hydra
endlessly re-rooting. Ritual 
of pull, chop, clip, clear.  

You overwhelmed the verge, 
climbed dogwood and lilac
until they choked, dead trellises.
It’s me, shin-deep, you’re after
who too long mistook your grit 
for delicacy. Up downspouts, 
over eaves, and under siding.

Our seasonal engagement rages, 
widens. I grow stronger, cagier, 
and though it’s dead sure victory 
has always been yours, let us meet 
again next spring, in our tangling
undying. How beautiful to live
at all, and for another.



You vent a riff of high clicks 
like a dollhouse door creaking as it 
swings unlatched in a model 
of wind. Unlike me, you can sing
and fly at the same time. 
Sucker for a touch of honey 
in the water, you small marvel, 
great unbumbling bee, you are more

brazen than the winged
idols of gold that brought endless 
song to Byzantium and the mind 
of Yeats. Hmm: more miracle
than bird, yet not once out of nature.  
The faster you can fly from 
the unnatural, the more fearless 
you are, anything but delicate. 

Today in a wood I’m stilled
by majesty unimagined. You light
within reach, cooling wings 
at a trickle of water over crystal 
charms that someone has set
on a mossy stone. Here you are
drinking, thinking me, in my dull
green shirt, just another small tree.



A. E. Stringer is the author of three collections, most recently Late Breaking (Salmon Poetry). He taught writing and literature at Marshall University for 24 years.


return to poetry                          home