Issue > Poetry
David Bottoms

David Bottoms

David Bottoms has published seven books of poetry, two novels and a book of essays/interviews. His many awards include the Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Levinson Award from Poetry magazine and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA. He holds the Amos Distinguished Chair in English Letters at Georgia State University. He is a past Poet Laureate of Georgia.

Attic Rats

Squirrels (or rats) were keeping us awake, a constant scratching
in the attic and walls, tag among the rafters.  

I was afraid they'd start a fire, chew the insulation off the wiring,
so climbed up the garage ladder

to spray some Deer Off, at least keep them away
from the furnace.

When my foot missed a joist and my leg plunged
through the ceiling

I didn't need my screaming wife to tell me something
had gone wrong.  Yes,

something had betrayed me, had gone south,
and I remembered my old man

looking up from his bed at Cherokee Northside,
his toothless gaping mouth,

the shock in his jaundiced eyes.  I swept up
the spilled insulation.  (It was littered with rat pellets.)

I patched the hole with cardboard, vowed to call a handyman.

For weeks I've lived with that patch,
that gasping shock.

Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch

Maybe I'll rise from the dead.  

Or live as a shadow. Or maybe I'll never leave you. At Emeritus
an old man plowing the hallway

with a three-wheeled walker
stopped me and grinned, My goal is to live forever - so far, so good.

Maybe we never get enough birdsong,
or watery soup
and over-steamed veggies.  Still, from the prayer porch
eternity sometimes looks like a raw deal.

Eternal leaf blower and weed whacker?  

(A few days before he died my old man asked about the yard.)  
Mostly blue jays at the feeder this morning, rude

and rowdy, and a few cardinals dripping off the trees
like the bloody tears of Christ.

Maybe we only rise again to the good things—honeysuckle,
robins, mockingbirds, doves,
fireflies toward evening, and along the back fence

the steady harping of tree frogs.
On the prayer porch, among the icons, such fancy thoughts.


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