Of David Bottoms, My Friend

My earliest memory of David Bottoms is reading his first collection of poetry Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump, which won the Walt Whitman Award judged by Robert Penn Warren. I suspect I wrote to David to say how much I admired the work. In those days we wrote actual letters, and we poets loved to receive such mail. I thought David showed exceptional feel for sentences, a fine ear for cadence, and lovely narratives about family and experiences of the natural world. I wrote to David what Richard Hugo had written earlier to me: you are my kind, friend. David’s poems and novels, book after book, have affirmed my judgment, that he is an extraordinary gift to American letters.

Black Ice

How can you believe what you can’t see?
Jesus said believe in me to Peter, and to others,
and they didn’t blink, they gulped and swallowed
maybe, but no doubt what was belief then,
the way a nausea drools, then convulses you.

In Baltimore it spread because a host of
weathers comes together and the days are black
in their mood, hurt’s just waiting, you are not
anyone special, not chosen, but you believe
in yourself, not words you hear rasped as you pass