July 23 or 24 2012

For Laura

I chose you from the face of the Earth.
Standing by them,
Looking out over the face of the waters, watching the passing.
I listened to the bending branches,
To trees rubbing against one another,
Animals scurrying,
Shuffling leaves,
Listening for what I would know when I heard it.
I saw the sun brighten the fields
And the moon’s bluesilver blanket.
I fed calves and goats from bottles,
Watched them grow.
Saw creeks overflow.
The crashing of icy limbs in the night
Brought no fear,
For I did not choose it.
It held no power in me.
As water makes its way in the Hurricane,
So I made my way to you.
Shallow and slow
Its surface seems –
But old it is –
And True.
It can always be found.
Low by its banks I looked for what had come,
What was coming.
Low by its banks I filtered many sounds
While listening for your approach.
And, Lo,
By a Spanish doorway,
I saw the pool of its ending,
And its beginning.



May 20 or 21 2010

Hymn of the Cherubim sets my breathing still,
my mind, quiet,
and reminds me of Love like the sea,
like the sky above and around us.
I have seen this Love played out countless times.
In my parents first,
my aunt and uncles next,
heroes after that.
Love that knows not boundary,
only expanding edges,
as pure as the blowing wind and
as ever present.
A man seems small when viewed against the night sky,
like a man beholding Love,
a bird on the sea,
a leaf among trees,
the uncontainable within me.
Though rumbling ground spews fire all ’round,
and spinning winds howl terrible sounds,
Calm, my love waits it out
uplifted hands, bowed down.
There after fire,
there after flood,
there after lies and throwing of mud,
It comes with wet rags to wash my face,
It comes with soft eyes and compassion,
It comes with an embrace after a standoffish night.
To see this played out is humbling enough.
To feel it press its forehead against mine
is crushing,
the Object and Reason of Life,
Truth of truth.


June 2 2010

One Truth,
Solitary and Immense,
resounds from ancient deeps.
The quick squint at the horizon,
The dry bones begin to jitter,
and the Aeturnus Invictus rises in my chest.
Today, I do not give up.
Today, I set my jaw.
Today, my will,
hammered and fired,
joins with the voice of ten million martyrs –
No depression or defeat.
Soul freed by fire,
its seed will fall from heat and height
and grow into something stout,
something large,
something new.
Nothing defeats a sanctified heart –
It cannot be overwhelmed –
I will never stop praying –
For the resurrection happened and is true –
Even so,


Tuesday June 10 2010

To live as though freedom had never been attempted,
to know not doubt.

What a difference a year makes.
A long night,
a long, long year for us here.
Every thought is doubted,
every joy is tempered
with gloom.
But there are dishes to do
and languages to learn.
I will never own birds in cages
or leave dogs tied outside.
Dishes and dogs and widow staring –
downcast acknowledgments of a present no one wants.
Days like ocean spray,
crashed and gone.
I think on walking in God’s own Earth and what it means
to live as though freedom had never been attempted
and not as though it had never been conceived.


Sunday June 6 2010

Six twenty four.
Shadow covers the deck.
Streams of sunlight from between houses
weave bands of light and less so
into a basket too big for me to see completely.
But on a sunlit rise,
visible from out back,
clumps of white flowers remain like puffs of smoke
from an unseen rider
traveling along the roadside.
Green grass,
then taller tan grass
provide the balancing hues,
in addition to
the exposed redorange clay dirt
at the base of an electric pole.
A cloud now covers the sun.
Shadows soften.
When passed, the light seems brighter,
intent on shining,
as if gritting its teeth.
Three streaks from plantation shutters
align on the carpet,
and the blue sky with greywhite clouds
begins its curtain call
with help from the birds – a denouement.
Sunset comes.
The land will melt into deep greengreys
and bow out as color comes to the sky.
Herbs and ferns nod with a breeze,
Congratulating the day on a job well done.


June 6 2010

Voices of neighbor children
come through my window like a recollection.
It looks like tag,
but who knows,
we make up games as we go,
and grow.
They play beneath an eightfifteen sky,
except for not being elusive enough.
Long summer days spent with cousins
seem to hunt me.
There is usually only one reason for hunting.
So many flashing thoughts in a halfsecond –
years in a moment –
Dogs bark out back, two Dobermans,
as neighbors and their company open the door
and warm light from the kitchen matches values with the sky.
Memories now feel more and more like dreams.
Just a front porch step,
just a volleyball net,
just lights in trees,
just anything but this.
Just one from a thousand good memories
would, should it stay awhile,
clear my lung’s grape-like clusters and
fill them up again.
Perhaps Tony and Rita are sitting on the porch.
Call out against the sea and
not one wave will be stopped.
Such is the power of man.
Hold your hand against the sun
and make only shadow.
Such is the legacy of man.
Bend and see tiny field flowers,
Such is the promise in man.
There is some peace in knowing your place,
in knowing the sea was made for Man,
as was the sun,
and without us
there is simply no reason.
Awe and Humility seem to be the lessons –
Love also.
More study is needed.
I sat beside the Hurricane
On evenings just like this,
And ventured home ‘neath dark’ning sky
With quiet feet, dew-kissed.


June 7, 2010


The song begins in golden sky,
a mother beaming at her One.
Soon to come, a lullaby,
to put away the sun.
Slowly now the clouds obscure,
eyelids refusing to consent,
but mother’s song’s too strong a lure,
and soon the day is spent.
Her back will bend to celestial crib,
her lips on forehead placed,
The One’s bright day now’s softly hid
In evening’s warm embrace.


June 30 2010

I look up sometimes
thinking that someone is crossing the window,
but usually that is not the case.
It’s the holly waving,
breaking my stare,
making sure that I’m not too self-absorbed
for too long.
The plantation shutters make a grid
over the existing grid from the window
and the sunlight is like the droning from a Tennessee music box,
like vuvuzelas,
like bagpipes,
something intent on attention.
The grid is easy to focus on
because I rarely look up.
No one is looking for me anyway.
Life drains away like a sunset,
and to most I’m already forgotten.
But there are at least two things to be thankful for when suffering:
your health (if not the cause of your suffering)
and the regular passage of time.
I’d sure like some good news.
I’d even take a good laugh,
or settle for restful sleep or
a twenty second period when I did not think of why.


May 13 2010
Thursday Night

Somewhere the sun is shining,
I can see it through the trees.
Orange fire to pink is faded,
then to purple now, it seems.
Greening fence does white blooms hold,
apart the fieldgrass stands
quiet and unmown.
Periwinkle cloud now rises through
replacing fire with cooling blue.
Sky’s less a fire, less and ember,
more like a smile in cold November.
But this is May and I am home.
As I’ve written the light has gone.
I have loved this time,
these moments here,
this May day,
fortunate a pen was near.
It’s said rains come soon,
one day,
maybe two.
I’ll watch them come from where sun has set;
From fire the sky does rain beget.
One last glance through living room
fills my eyes with deep pink bloom –
fading e’en now as I write,
the only goodbye,
the perfect goodnight.


May 14 2010

Little black birds with yellowivory beaks
forage on ruined shortcake crumbs that I left for them.
It is evening.
It is raining.
When you find a treasure,
an unexpected goodness,
you feed on it ’til it’s gone.
Then you move on –
if you’re a bird.
No conservation efforts there,
but we care for them anyway.

Foraging black birds.
Lift and lite on wires,
uncaring of the cage my window makes around them.
If two or three lift away
they all fly.

I looked down to write,
looked up,
and the little black birds with yellowivory beaks
were gone.

I hope the shortcake is too,
because we must look out for one another.
The talented ones,
those with something to say,
are pushed by disdainful looks and rolled eyes
into the subway,
into the rains,
into themselves.
Self is a stick place.
Once in the court of princes and kings
the players played, the writers wrote,
and now Malcom Holcombe in his big dirty coat
plays for crowds of people with cleaner hair than his.
At least their clothes fit.

But he is a believer.
A metal folding chair with one row of lights on him
does not do justice to the situation.
Now that I think about it,
what should be added to help the world to see?
For a player is playing,
and languages of notes are being spoken.
While princes have luxury that is a shell,
the talented ones,
those with something to say,
sit in darkened rooms and speak and play.
Out of necessity and desire I thought it,
but did not speak.
To acknowledge his cracking voice
would surely break the dam.
“I’m fine,” I’d say.
“We have everything we need.”
Everything and more,
for the depth of his pain
is the depth of his love.
“I was just hoping he’d have something positive to say.”
“Positive ended in December.
‘Not as bad’ is the best we’ve got.”
“Son, you know I’d do anything for you.”
“I know dad.”
Water seeps through cracks.
More pouring through,
visible from a distance.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, son.”
Streams of water now.
“Alright. Bye.”
Upsidedown backwards travesty for the youngest of four
to tell his dad not to cry.
Forevermore, Forevermore,
the few inches that make my pen
will tell of Love, of Flood, and Fire.
The phone goes silent.
No dam anymore,
just some things underwater.
The water flows,
washing Reason and Right away.
Caked-on, cracking, bitter mud shrouds my heart.
My father is hurting,
residue from a flood.


Tenthirtytwo a.m.

February 23 2010

Between evening whisper and the moon,
Beneath sky of purp’ling blue,
I have a heart to give to you.
Come stormy night, yet morning blooms.

So teach and tell of love;

Though words be only seeds outthrown,
Here by mud, there by stone,
And each one’s time is never known,
Love is ne’er outdone.


End of March 2010
Tuesday after Passover

The sun is out today.
Birds forage and call.
Unseen over the hill,
the city sounds.
Cars drive by,
flies fly by,
the sun wades through a cloudless sky.
I don’t want to write about the beautiful prison,
about how life goes on without me,
about sad things,
but I am reminded of the situation
by the deck railing –
may as well be jail.
I don’t want to remember my shackles,
the routine of confinement,
but then again,
Nature has routines
and the sun is shining.
I’ll sit on the wood we cleaned and stained
and be glad that birds don’t care about the situation.
They call just the same.
And the grass grows.
Daffodils, Buttercups show.
Tree’s twiggy ends blush.
Neglected oregano finds its way back.
I have a feeling I may too.
Everything has a season.


April 1 2010

Without the pity for the sick,
without the compassion for the crippled,
without the mournful looks for the insane,
I take my place among the refuse,
the castoffs,
the “better-off-without-thems.”
My fate is shame followed by poverty
followed by shame followed by distance
followed by empty calling into the night
without even the comfort of an echo.

Forsaken. Wronged. Limp.
How many lives like mine are forgotten?
We are the gravel on which Freemen walk,
forever defeated, until death.
Death as release is no way to live.

Martyrs have righteousness.
I am a rotting sinner.
Why should God be on my side?
He should not.
In fact, it feels just that way.
The one I love,
the one who can help,
will not hear,
will not show,
will not say.

Abandoned homes dot the Tennessee landscape,
Reclaimed by thorny brush,
The daffodils move outside the window.
There is no sound.
An invitation met by a stare.
The sun moves at approximately thirty-six inches per hour across the rooms.


April 3 2010

The birds started the waking song
several weeks ago
as the cold rested its grip
a finger at a time.
Twig ends blush and green.
The pear, oak, and maple begin to slowly sway –
Their answer.
The whispering waters blend their tones
with wispy willow branches
just starting to sweep the ground.
The birds called,
the sun lit,
the trees unfurl
and open themselves to spring.


April 3 2010

Two days ago,
green, light green.
Two months ago,
after rain,
with full sun,
blue sky
by clouds,
new leaves.
Barely moving
like an animal hatching.
The evergreens welcome their friends back.
I see the life through the window.
No sound,
just the refrigerator making ice.
I marvel
how far
People will always welcome and adore Spring.
For me,
it is like a memory –
dimly, cloudily recalled with strain.
Shutters open.
Street light color reminds me of the desert.
Brightened halo from the city cannot block every star.
But how I long to see the stars
from the land of the sleeping rainbow.
How I wish my name was that beautiful.
How I want the stars to pull me away.
How I wish to rise above.
But here I float,
cosmic trash,
a candy wrapper on the surface of the sea.
I guess I’m going somewhere, though.
I hope it’s not the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
I think I’ll get there.
Maybe I’m already there.
No one knows my name anymore.
But the stars remain,
there’s sometimes sleep,
chores maintain sanity.
They push away the sinking stare that tends to happen about 2 p.m..
Things are dim,
but two stars are twinkling.


May 12 2010

Mr. Obama appeared open to reconciliation.
Tried to blame westerners.
Let me begin by saying that many of them were overstated.
Gas was seeping into the well.
There might have been an issue.
An eight-year-old boy was the sole survivor
In a crash that killed 104 people near Tripoli.
Volcanic ash drifting south.
Flood waters recede.
Through the plantation shutters,
tilted down a bit,
I see a back-lit group of leaves.
The breeze must be swirling.
That’s why Hefty food bags are best.
Choppy commercials have no effect on the leaves.
Their glow makes so many things just silly.
The Pope finally addresses child sex scandal.
They blamed everyone but themselves.
Hopefully this is a sign and not just talk.
FCC looks to address surprise cell phone bills.
So silly.
Politicians beware.
My eyes meet the leaves and we watch each other
like animals who’ve never seen man.
They’re not running, they’re just living.
It could turn into an anti-democratic wave.
Light boxes intensify and fade as clouds pass between
the sun and I.
Winning more awards than any other luxury manufacturer says something.
Back and forth they sway,
just living,
happy the sun is out.
I wish I could remember the days before Noise.
No highways, never-ending product propaganda,
I would’ve enjoyed saying,
“You mean farmer Ray’s place?”
“Our crop is extra sweet this year with plenty left by the fences.”
“She gave us two colts already.”
I’ll have to settle for the language of swaying limbs –
the only vestige of simpler times –
and the memories will have to be made by my own hand,
in my own land,
in my time.
The closest I’ll get to better days
is me,
in a field,
the earth whispering.
It speaks, you know,
if you’ll listen.
So Ted Turner is now being interviewed,
says he’d like to see more international news coverage.
I hear it,
through the noise.
The sway,
a wave,
no, I cannot come out and play,
but I see you and that’s more than most people.
I see you.
Perhaps one day you’ll show me how to be
simply lit,
just living,
At the end of redgreen shoots, with veins like finger bones,
glows like halos,
three back-lit leaves live.


May 22 2010

This is what it means to be loved:
Lying in the sunlit patch of floor
on my back,
forearms over eyes but
sliding down,
deep, regular breaths,
eyes closed, amorphous orange,
fallen arms now outstretched,
thinking of God,
Evening now.
Beeping sounds like high technology chirp, screech, call,
wrapped up in feathery flight –
Friends, this is your time.
The dimming sun warming the greens,
lavender sky encroaching,
three-quarter moon stone dust white,
the birds prepare for this days night,
and I –
I write.
For posterity, I suppose.
More from knowing deep things:
There is a future,
but not yet.


May 26 2010
On the day before

This evening’s sky was the word of God,
complete and perfect.
Gold – the shimmering backdrop against which all things glow,
Redorangepeach – spirit fire,
So many blues – peace in hard days and lands.
The sun seemed to set many times,
but night’s studded velvet eventually draped,
a fitting blanket for a king.
The gold, the redorangepeach and blues
are the coat of many colors,
giv’n to a future slave, abandoned brother,
this sunset like no other.

Deepening now,
darkening hue,
all I have to give to you is this word of God.
Sit before it in silence.
For you, my abandoned brother,
are the progenitor of peace,
the inheritor of Truth,
the One-Who-Will-Be-Story.


June 10 2010
onefiftynine p.m.
It’s amazing how deeply peaceful things are
in those few moments right after
you turn off the t.v..
The fan has been spinning.
You see the small movements of foliage
outside a window you remember was there.
The breeze from the fan comes across your face.
Your mind, quiet.
Real things regain their fullness.
The 2D world is hushed,
and you remember that you are alive
and that you’re tired of people talking.
The smell of cooking food reminds you of simple, good things –
the privilege of making it, not the chore.
You wonder how much of life has been wasted.
The sound of the air kicking on strangely tells you of all you’ve taken for granted.
The icemaker expels ice,
an insect repeatedly taps against the window,
flowers your spouse planted turn sunward,
folded clothes take on meaning,
and you’d give all your life to just wake up,
stop dreaming,
and know what it means to really, really live.
A perched bird sits on the telephone wire,
cottony cloud behind.


June 2010
sevenfiftynine p.m.

A fencerow or two.
One with wild roses and daffodils,
one with honeysuckle, red and yellow.
What we grew up calling apricots can wind low
while what we call cowitch can spread across the top.

A fencerow facing West
is a new painting everyday.
What a luxurious life to be free to see
a fencerow against dusty lavender skies
streaked with orange sherbert and bleachedyellow clouds.
A masterwork.
Bees come,
as do birds.

What I’d give to have a fencerow
clothed with white blossoms,
admired by fireflies.

The color leaves the sky,
and the young girl from across the street pedals her bicycle in slow circles,
waiting for her family to go inside.
children playing,
and thoughts of blossoms on fencerows.
It is summer.


June 14 2010
threetwentynine p.m.

The houseplant interrupts the sunny grid on the floor.
A little girl pedals a pink bicycle through the panes.
t.v. is mute.
The ravaged Sunday paper lies in pieces.
The section I laid out at three fifteen to mark the commencement of my measurement is now
over halfway covered in light.
A fly let in when I opened the back door to swat away Japanese beetles
now finds itself in this foreign land of unnatural surfaces.
I’d rather not have to kill it –
as much for me as for it.
No one wants to clean guts
or spend time calculating on what surface to strike.
It absolutely could not be the table,
it is far to nice,
and the killing blow attempted on the carpet doesn’t always do the job the first time,
so one must take the rolled up junk mail and strike again,
and again,
with a third strike perhaps necessary,
and that’s a lot of vexation for one fly –
and for me.
The newspaper marker is now completely lit,
sunlight reaching the ends (the fold was my starting mark).
The pink bike rider returns with her sister in a denim skirt.
They go inside.
It is ninety-three degrees.


June 15 2010
sevenfiftyseven p.m.

Young people walk by my window,
holding hands,
slow steps,
no need to hurry
because the sky is golden for a while more.
This is the time of day when God walked in the garden.
A bit of blue peeks through,
but everything,
greens, grays,
everything is softer now.
Softer now and quiet.
How I took for granted my days of freedom.
Smoke rises from the back of a neighbor’s home,
fire for food, no doubt.
I used to be able to stand in my driveway and grill.
Natural sounds are replaced by commercials,
never-ending commercials,
in a caricature of what I’ve always loved.
Dusty yellow now,
like when a storm comes,
color infuses everything.
I am here,
locked away from the free world.
Things taken for granted no more.
all the bad from one year past does not compare to all the good.
I watch the color leave the sky like a beloved guest leaving with a hug.
Each time I step to the window
I’m met with new colors and configurations.
We’re two friends trying to say goodnight,
or rather,
trying not to.
As I spin the wheel and hope it stops on a good word,
the warmth leaves the sky.
While I was lost in foggy thought,
my dear friend said goodbye.
Now this is all that’s left of a day come and gone.
I sit in place, glass-eyed
and thinking now of home.
How the sky and I would converse
with cloudy words and starry verse,
by woods and fence and creek and post,
I sat beneath, nothing to boast.
In morning he’d show with eyes op’n wide,
his mid-day mood would make me find
shade ’til evening’s come.
Then to the dark’ning field I’d run.
Lightning bugs try to compete
with starry blue,
soul-hushingly complete.


June 16 2010
eightten a.m.

Three brown birds,
not sure what kind,
scour the gutter outside a window for
what I can only imagine to be water,
though they may see bugs.
They depart to a nearby tree.
I didn’t scare them off.
It’s already hot outside.
The sky is typical summer mid-day blue this morning.
The television was on, now it’s off.
Lakers dominate game seven.
People respond to Obama’s address.
Oppressive heat in the South.
The hedge waves briefly,
and the little brown birds forage.
A sunny quadrilateral stretches from the back door across the kitchen floor
subdivided into fifteen smaller versions of itself.
Refrigerator fan hums.
Birds chirp.
On West Grab Creek a car passes.
I see I left the ceiling fan on,
and go to get a shower.
Plants move without a sound while the two fans turn and turn.
I look again for the little brown birds but they are not there.
November –
a liturgy of mind and heart
finds me slumbering.
So much,
so heavy,
all at once,
no cure.
The leaves are falling,
from flame to brown,
bent to brittle,
hardy to delicate,
overhead to underfoot.
Lacey in death,
useful too,
for the ground’s covering
and the soil’s salvation.

November –
the only hope is that a Sower
with a package of promise,
will find my leafy remains
suitable for keeping
and growing,
in the end,
use my fragmented self
to make something that doesn’t blend in,
something green and new and bendable.
For November finds my work heavy.
My back, my head, my heart, all bent
and breaking.
Winter comes.
Unless someone finds my form pleasing
and presses me in a book,
my future is almost certain.
A lacy end for me.
Oh, let winds blow me to the eyes of The Collector
so that He may press me between pages of mercy
and keep me from a brittle end.

November –
the people’s work is hard to do
when working with so little,
so be faithful in it.


August 20 2009

What else is there really
besides essence?
A darkened tree line,
fenceline diagonaling out to meet it.
Grazing starlings,
a black wave,
crashing into the air,
living spray,
falling onto stones,
melting off
back into waves.

Wooden pins with springs.
Storm coming,
waving, twisting, flapping, popping.
A window view
beyond clotheslines
onto fields with redgrass bent.
Beyond storms,
beyond the need for rain,
beyond the need to be quenched.
The cotton-corded clothesline makes small circles
and in the watcher, a deep meaningless –
followed by another thought –
water fills the eyes
but knowledge fills the heart.
The screendoor smacks.
The window shows
that life is more than small circles.

What else is there really,
to be here
right now
and to be what is required?


January 2011

Dreams like bubbles –
beautiful and complete,
shimmering and clear,
swirling and

The world has a crack in it.
Bring your tape and spackle.
Bring a brother and try to tackle
The changing.

The sky has a crack in it.
(Let your fingers feel.)
The sky above is eggshell thin
and changing.

–Probably August when the National PPA convention was in Nashville–

In Remembrance of Trees

Rulers of fields and glade,
Kings, really.
Foundations in time and deep Earth.
Bases wide as rivers,
The gaze of one unconquered,
Defier of condor and starling alike,
Interrupter of breezes,
Lord of Earth.



Seth TumminsComment