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Aaron McCollough

Knoxville Blues
Vernacular Poem [Painted with feathers]
Vernacular Poem [Light / shade]


Knoxville Blues



Which was the fantasia





        as the preservation of the world is wildness

            and what is wild 

            has no use for sympathetic stories


and all we want and don’t want of us

is in the singing



          wandering to


the singing    that has no use



strawberry jam and all the dif’rent varieties


            in knoxville I first saw a girl

            in knoxville I first touched her


for wildness wilderness and innocence

are inconsistent notions        there’s only trauma and

                                                            help  or  harm

                                                                        in it

                                                                            the black sap rotten knot


to clean song (two house sparrows sing at one another)


    and what lies behind their singing is

    a metaphor for wildness in domesticity (passer domesticus,

    or HOSP, sometimes called the English Sparrow)



we’ve been through this garden

superfluous branches / we lop away, that bearing bows may live



Which was the fantasia




in knoxville my father (a brave man) had as his friend

a brave man (like an uncle to me) and they both lived themselves

for preservations    one against the plow    the other against the saw


            hard and full of trauma    like the old christians, Lord

            who I never meet        except in books

            they asked for a beating


    the blues    the persecutory imagination    to preservation engine


puritan blues


    mourning without special interest

    mourning without special pleading


mourning and pleading most mild

                                                            so mild as a fever always


an even ferocity                        the grass coming in


the fever of tuning





I picked a stick up off the ground

and knocked that fair girl down




this even ferocity of nature





promiscuous butchery


by the river that runs through knoxville town

to live in a house     promiscuous butchery

to live                      promiscuous butchery


what kind of creation


the kind that interrupts


                        river interrupted

                        river flood

                        measures the river

                        love not love

                        the river mark

                        line of mold

                        mould of make

                        edge and fold

river interrupted

                        river flood

                        measures the river

                        love not love




not help not harm not not not

I said I would not say no

help me with my disbelief


            a hero perish    a sparrow fall




thought every degree of creation

              a degree of evil thought and every

            thought degree of evil a degree of unbeing


    coming through these degrees

    flying the finale we at a crux in the world

            (extracted from an x

                                    reading The Sorrows of Priapus


            watching Land of the Dead)


                straining to hear    murder song hosannas


 crept up on the new from original

intrinsic from authentic





where knoxville once stood, a basket of strawberries


a cactus in a green plastic planter


a model of kennedy at his desk


dogwoods    violins



the horsehead cornucopia spilling

fish    frog    turtle    a “no swimming” sign


for Oh, to some / Not to be Martyrs, is a martyrdome



in the crackling groove flying where

digitized and coded again    a shadow of a shadow of


the blues unhooked and floating in the



even as I was yanking the sparrow’s nest

from the gutter pipe a metaphor for help and harm

was up there and the thunder rushing me


                                    pass domicile

                                    pestering as you must be

                                    terminal tearing




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Vernacular Poem



Painted with feathers

The box in the saltbox house

In the town called Old Economy

Before it was dry

With feathers

When weather could cross

Your contents


I mean when all your ventures

Might suddenly go ruined

My love is like a flower

It is painted with




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Vernacular Poem



Light / shade

I cannot control this flower

Or light and shade


I do not touch these

They don’t touch me


We say of our time ‘out of control’

But we could mean ‘in love’


Moisture on the bathroom wall

Running water


We could say ‘irresistible’

Of this flower, Lily


And our time / light / shade

The idea of nothing


Nothing cruel

Which cannot be thought


Touching things

Touching terms


Things terms Lily like love

Outside grasp    inside reach

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Aaron McCullough was born in Columbus Ohio, and raised in Knoxville and Chattanooga Tennessee. His first book of poetry, Welkin, was chosen for the first Sawtooth Prize and was published by Ahsahta Press. Double Venus was published by Salt Books in 2003. Little Ease is forthcoming from Ahsahta Press this year.


Poems copyright ©2006 by Aaron McCullough.


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