In a battered desk in the feed room of my grandfather’s store,
I came across a knife
my father had made – high school, I’m guessing,
metal shop – a dagger with a bone handle,
blade cut from a metal file.
It looked ugly, dangerous.
“Put that back,” he told me
when I brought it into the store. He hardly glanced
at the two-edged blade, good only for murder.
I was young, obedient. I put it back
but have held it years in my memory,
just as he must’ve held it
in that desk drawer of rusted sockets and wrenches –
ugly, yes, but one of those things
so well made we could hardly let it go.
For twelve years the Poet Laureate of Georgia, he has received the Frederick Bock Prize and the Levinson Prize, both from Poetry magazine, an Ingram Merrill Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, and his new book of poems, Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch, will be released by Copper Canyon Press in 2018.