Poem of the Week | September 11, 2012

This week we dove deep in the archives (Summer, 1980, TMR 3.3) and came up with this doozy by Georgia’s best, David Bottoms. Bottoms has served as Georgia’s Poet Laureate since 2000, and was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame in 2009. He teaches at Georgia State University, co-edits Five Points magazine, and lives in Marietta, Georgia. His first book, Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump, won the Walt Whitman Award. Since, he has received such awards as the Ingram Merrill Award, Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize, the 1999 Georgia Author of the Year Award from the Georgia Writers Association, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry, and an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Additionally, he has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. We highly recommend his new book, out this year, We Almost Disappear.

Recording the Spirit Voices

In the hollow below the hill vaults
I have placed a recorder
on the grave of a young woman killed in a fire
and have crouched under the arm of this angel
to wait for voices,
tree frogs whirring through the blue pines,
the Ocmulgee lapping the bank at the foot of Rose Hill.


A gray moon over the Confederate graves
gleams on the water,
the white gallon jugs floating some man’s trotline.
Like me, he’s trying to bring things to the surface
where they don’t belong.


And across the river
blue needles rasp like the voices
I heard on television,
the documented whisper of spirits, I’m afraid here, I’m afraid.
So am I now
as leaves in the hollow rustle their dry tongues:
afraid to hear a woman scream from a burning house,
to record some evidence her tombstone lied,
bury the truth these angels stand on: born and died.