Tag: Jesse Graves

Late Summer

Late Summer


Afternoons languish like untensed muscles,

like a mind gone slack peering into a screen,

whole days awash in faint light, feint wind,

cloudless blue of old paint, dust-covered.

Time lowers down in the dry grass,

crunches under foot, whispering

softly to mask the speed of its passing. 

A crackling hush, a hushed absence.


Warm dry months stretch ahead like waves

glimmering ghostly above the ground, 

ocean of air, streaked window of the future.

Tonight’s moon is a waning gibbous,

ever-fading, ever-seeming to retreat.

Orbits break, patterns vanish like ash in water, 

vastness and sorrow, oceans of summer,

most ships safely reaching port.


Late summer days scatter like money

after a bubble implodes, stunned people

who thought it would last forever

scramble for all their pockets will hold.

The ship of living sails the ocean of time,

some of us dreaming close to the prow,

others below deck, clutching our bags.

Late summer, as though it has already died.


Mostly we lived in great seclusion, far from

events and people of worldly importance.

When the rains finally came, we soaked up

all we could, we mirrored the leaves,

turning our insides up, downsides out, 

stretching through multiple contortions

to nourish our blanched bodies, dry roots,

water, seclusion, turbulent screens of cloud.


We pretended to be sleepwalkers, romantics,

anarchists, realists, anything but what we were,

which we never determined, moving about

with eyes closed and hands at our sides,

hoping to feel something without reaching for it.

Money was the great mystery of our days,

which people gave us freely until they realized

we had no way or plan to give it back.


Every summer unreels like another childhood,

terrors of whispered-about corridors,

passageways through shrouded woodland trails,

night hovering within midday shadows,

undersides of leaves, stones, unfound doors.

Always some haunted tale awaiting the children,

doors into darkness locked behind them.

Somewhere out there an ocean, a wave cresting.


Somewhere awaits a shore, a homeland,

ships have been sailing toward it 

for centuries, guided by tremulous captains,

steering their crews within sight of land,

before twists and turns of fate drive them

back out to sea, cruel fate, indifferent hand.

The long fingers of summer evenings close

around the wan throats of summer days. 


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.

Shallow Water Over Sand

I have seen this color before, in my mother’s shift-robe,

on old dresses her mother might have worn, blue-green,

delicate shade, like shallow water over white sand,

now in my palm, on a button I picked off the pavement 

in the grocery store parking lot, color of thread stitched

into quilts made by hands born the century before last.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN