Holy in the Hands of Old Oak: Featured Poetry by Alexandra Teague

August 20, 2019 | 1 book mentioned 2 min read

Our series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from Or What We’ll Call Desire by Alexandra Teague. Her book is full of richly-textured pieces like “Driving After Rain,” a poem whose rhythm begins with its first line—a single sentence, dressed with complementing s and f sounds, appended with a final, single word that moves us forward. She’s as skilled moving among phrases and sounds as she is portraying bodies—our ineffable drift through this world: “we were always driving nowhere // and it didn’t matter then.”

“Driving After Rain”

The self like silverware laid out finally for a feast. Bright
lanes of light along the gorge this morning, that watery rush

like the waterwheel I used to love to go see at the mill:
the War Eagle gushing brown Southern babble

over sunspots of stone, dark flecks of childhood
lifted into swinging buckets, rain pockmarks of failure

or giver or grief churning not in transubstantiation but in water
rising up as water, holy in the hands of old oak;

Oh God, make them like a wheel, not a curse, but a way
to ride the whole way around our bodies

and back—like once in the front seat by an L.A. highway,
I’d pull over with a man, a storm

so blinding rain blinding no one saw my skirt lifting
against steering wheel; we were always driving nowhere

and it didn’t matter then, suspended
like water I don’t quite understand, how it falls fast enough

to carry itself up and over and still be whole
the way I pretended I wasn’t—knowing he was lying

that he’d ever love me, throwing myself anyway
like this river was everything. As stubble before the wind.  

Inside that mill, flour dusts every skin. So what
if I’m dammed and damned and driven; some days

I’m also shining like spoons milled by water, bread
my mother kneaded as I set knife beside fork—hunger

taught to be orderly as wheels at fairs, that sky-swinging danger
with its sturdy spokes like psalms splitting the word of God

from the water of every other word.

Driving after the Rain” by Alexandra Teague from Or What We’ll Call Desire by Alexandra Teague. Copyright © 2019 by Alexandra Teague. Posted by permission of Persea Books, Inc. (New York). All rights reserved.

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and The Kenyon Review. His newest book is Longing for an Absent God. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at nickripatrazone.com.

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