Doug Van Gundy


The streetlights are rubbing their eyes awake, 
a blush of orange tinges the western sky, 
a few optimistic bats patrol the space above the backyard.

I think we can begin.

O placidness, 
coming up quiet like floodwaters around the foundation, 
we beseech thee:  a little help.  Dearest deity 
of the here-and-now, please: 
throw a little light our way. 

The truth is, there’s not much 
to complain about, not a lot of cause 
for genuine alarm, and where is the money in that?  

Across the water is an island 
of soft grasses and lingering light.  
Goldfinches stand upright like Christmas bulbs 
in the plantation spruces and fireflies flash, 
on – off – on, 
through the night, 
never quite letting things go 
completely dark.


Quod Vides Scribe in Libro 

The LORD told the Revelator 
that he should be a writer, gave him
that simple advice and plopped him down 
on Patmos for the dirty work.

It’s not that simple when the voice
that directs you comes only from inside
and this place is the only place that you have
to write from and about.

Who would want a book
filled with the things that I see?
Are there even stories left
that haven’t been stripped,

eroded, cut, burnt or dug?
What hasn’t been trucked out
or washed downstream is twisted,
worthless, or beyond repair.


Talbott Churchyard, West Virginia 

In Memory of Irene McKinney

At the gravesite, finally, after all 
the Buddhist, humanist, poetical 
nonsense, the preacher gets his say:
intoning the scriptures into winter-thin air.
But as he utters this boilerplate about ashes
and dust and the dead rising again 
to walk; his voice diminishes 
until there is only the ticking 
of pelleted snow on open umbrellas,
the mocking call of crows
in the oaks above and the barking of a dog 
on the distant ridge, her voice pregnant 
with news and no one to hear it.


Doug Van Gundy teaches in the low-residency MFA program at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where he also directs the undergraduate Honors Program. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in The Oxford American, Appalachian Heritage, Ecotone, Fretboard Journal, and Poetry Salzburg Review. His first book of poems, A Life Above Water, is published by Red Hen Press. He is also an award-winning fiddler and banjo player and performs as part of the old-time duo, Born Old.


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