Two Poems by Noah Soltau

Ochs Highway, 7:34 pm

The sun sets grapefruit and apricot over the valley

Honeysuckle rhododendron and mountain laurel 

And the tourists’ burning brakes perfume the air

I glide through the curves and

The cortisol glides through my brain

I am in between

I am always coming and going always on my way


My moving makes the world static

The great refraction suspends the mountain 

Shadows below and the long arm of the galaxy above

The air is a confection to cut through

I have left my love and hate 

And have not yet arrived at love and hate 

And the small things in the darkness sing eat sleep and die


The Cardinal

As I was dying the cardinals were in the clover

In my hospital room I had orthodox holy water and basic cable 

Outside the cardinal dismembered a grasshopper

When they moved me to what would become my deathbed

The cardinals cracked sunflower seeds against Demeter’s empty eyes

Outside a cold and empty temple

Inside, my brother put a small ceramic cardinal on a shelf

Next to empty coffee cups and alcohol swabs

You all waited for the good fortune the cardinals bring

When I got sick you painted me a cardinal 

And now you watch them flying light as the breath that left me

Noah Soltau is a professor at Carson-Newman University and lead editor of The Red Branch Review. He lives and works in East Tennessee. Follow him on Instagram @noahsoltau and @redbranchreview.