Tuck Ledbetter

Tuck Ledbetter (he/him) is a third-year student at East Tennessee State University where he studies English and Linguistics. He will be published in The Mockingbird Literary Journal in 2022. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys playing drums for local jazz groups and hiking on the nearby Appalachian Trail.

one’s own estuary

I slip both arms into my past like a coat soaked
from the inside with something that isn’t water,
a thing viscous as blood or sap so that the
stickiness makes me a sleepwalker with nothing
to lose, and with nothing I step out into the
white on white light under Baudelaire’s injured
moon—heaving the injured air—trying to trace
a river with my feet who are ever-busy chasing
that river which sometimes is trees and
sometimes is sand and is ever-heavy-laden with
mirage; heavy like the coat over my back as it
drips down my somnambulant spine, down my
limping legs, leaving a puddle: the brackish
reflecting pool of was and is that turns my
waking eyes downward—now I see what has
come off me mingling with the earthdust to
make something so new it sings.

haibun with view of God and forest

prayer used to mean eyes sewn shut tighter than seams on a
baseball. these rituals now seem superfluous, so tonight we took a walk
in some woods—that God and I—we chatted, I cried, and they made no
noise as it paced over the earth, over dust from now-dead suns—
which long ago she recycled into my little finger, a swallow’s tail feather,
my mother’s femur, the white speckles on a fawn. I stop to ask them why a praying
mantis consumes the head of its mate. I ask her what it is about a gray sky that
always drapes a radiologist’s lead blanket over my chest. He turns their eye to me:
it’s a gem, or it’s Borges’ aleph; it’s a quasar, which—like my mind in this moment—
is the fastest spinning object in the universe, stumbling & spilling-over
in the tar-black dark, asking the questions of a damned fool, because

my God is brooding.
I am dust—and all the rest.
these trees are my skin.

Notes Toward a Pure Hauntology

History is perched and crooning –
a vulture’s smirk reflected
in fawn’s blood fifty feet below.

Turning cog! Tuning fork! –
imbibe me; strike me as useful and send me
tumbling toward a more delicious reality.

I have found my kin there –
beneath the pungent forest floor.
Beneath the rot of outdated modes,

we lie in wait for the seventh
seal to be broken; we wait on our bellies
for the space between the notes

to once again reign over the
thunderous colosseum of my car payment
is due in ten days, and I make less than

twelve dollars an hour, and I have
a child and why the fuck should this be so hard?

Europe is teething again.

The lightness of our place has become
the most unbearable tickle. While
wholeness peers ‘round corners at us

like a specter of Marx, shalom crawls
convalescent at our heels but
there is now NO TIME TO REAP –

there is time for no new thing
under the sun, and – in a breath – I have understood:
we are petals on the wet, black pavement.

NOVUS Literary and
Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN