Two Poems by Jeremy Lloyd

Cemetery Oak

(Quercus rubra)

Giant one, though the passage 

of time has not been kind,

still you cling on. 

Your lightning-struck trunk,

rotting on one side, bears

saw marks near your half-gone 

crown where birds still alight 

on what remains of your branches.

Like obedient pupils 

gathered at their teacher’s feet,

the rows of headstones lying

in your shade seem all eyes and ears,

ready to take notes.

Or perhaps it’s the other way around

and the old learners nourishing your roots

are providing instruction themselves,

a lesson about time and how the longer

one spends aboveground

the closer to the earth one gets. 


Nebo Mountain

What an odd thing it is to cast my gaze 

day after day upon a place where 

I will never in my lifetime step foot. 

Across the river and highway, 

the mountain rises out of nothing, 

solitary, a disjunct wedge of uplift

packed with rock older than dirt.

Through my kitchen window, I watch

it green up every growing season,

though I long ago gave up notions 

of climbing it, too sheer its face 

and too near the highway. Kick a rock 

and I’m likely to shatter 

a motorist’s windshield below.

Besides, there are some places

one shouldn’t go—the knitting circle,

a teenager’s bedroom, the temple’s

inner chamber. Call it exclusion, 

but it is instructive to know 

how Moses must have felt

and wonder just what secrets

hide behind the green veil.

We wave to one another instead,

the mountain and I, and there’s 

contentment in staying right here 

to watch curtains of mist

slough by between us as 

we exchange curious looks.

Jeremy Lloyd lives in East Tennessee where he teaches on the faculty of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. His writing has appeared in Sierra, Gray’s Sporting Journal, High Country News, The Sun, Fourth Genre, and North Carolina Literary Review. He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and co-directs the Tremont Writers Conference.