Clouds hover low after rain,
steady enough to soften the arrival
of full dark, late spring night.
Children on the Hale Avenue corner
have gone inside, their dog quiet,
curled by the front porch door.
The listening is best early dusk,
with quiet company chosen long ago.
Old sounds return in the settle-down,
loosely-rolled cigarette crackling as I recall
how her voice shivered when first she spoke
her street address those many years back.
Time’s elision, time’s frenetic parade,
nothing suppresses the longing
to live in the pulse of that moment,
freshness filling the canal of the body,
my own heart surging with blood.
The oldest sound is made of breath.
Jesse Graves is the Poet-in-Residence and Professor of English at East Tennessee State University. He was awarded the 2015 James Still Award for Writing about the Appalachian South from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and the 2014 Phillip H. Freund Award in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in issues of Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Carolina Quarterly, Southern Cultures, andThe Missouri Review. Graves’ first poetry collection, Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine, was published in 2011, and was awarded the Weatherford Award in Poetry from Berea College, and the Book of the Year Award in Poetry from the Appalachian Writers’ Association. He is the co-editor of three volumes of The Southern Poetry Anthology, and of the forthcoming Complete Poems of James Agee. Basin Ghosts, his second book of poems, was released in spring of 2014, and received the Weatherford Award for Poetry that year. His third collection of poems, Specter Mountain, co-authored with William Wright, was published by Mercer University Press in 2018; and his fourth collection, Merciful Days, was released in 2020. Graves holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Tennessee.