About the Author
ANDREW HUDGINS is the author of seven books of poems, including Saints and Strangers, The Glass Hammer, and most recently Ecstatic in the Poison. A finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, he is a recipient of Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships as well as the Harper Lee Award. He currently teaches in the Department of English at Ohio State University.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
I couldn’t stand still watching them forever, but when I moved the grackles covering each branch and twig sprang together into flight and for a moment in midair they held the tree’s shape, the black tree peeling from the green, as if they were its shadow or its soul, before they scattered, circled and re-formed as grackles heading south for winter grain fields.
Oh, it was just a chinaberry tree, the birds were simply grackles. A miracle made from this world and where I stood in it.
But you can’t know how long I stood there watching.
And you can’t know how desperate I’d become advancing each step on the feet of my advancing shadow, how bitter and afraid I was matching step after step with the underworld, my ominous, indistinct and mirror image darkening with extreme and antic nothings the ground I walked on, inexact reversals, elongated and foreshortened parodies of each foot lowering itself onto its shadow.
And you can’t know how I had tried to force the moment, make it happen before it happened not necessarily this though this is what I saw: black birds deserting the tree they had become, becoming, for a moment in midair, the chinaberry’s shadow for a moment after they had ceased to be the chinaberry, then scattering: meaning after meaning birds strewn across the morning like flung gravel until they found themselves again as grackles, found each other, found South and headed there, while I stood before the green, abandoned tree.
Copyright © 1998 by Andrew Hudgins. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.