poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

James Applewhite is the author of many poetry collections, most recently Time Beginnings (Louisiana State University Press, 2017). His other collections include Cosmos: A Poem (Louisiana State University Press, 2014), Selected Poems (Duke University Press, 2005), Daytime and Starlight (Louisiana State University Press, 1997), and River Writing: An Eno Journal (Princeton University Press, 1988). He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry and the Jean Stein Award in Poetry from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He is a Professor Emeritus in creative writing at Duke University.

Interstate Highway

for our daughter, Lisa

As on a crowded Interstate the drivers in boredom 
      or irritation speed ahead or lag (taken with sudden
enthusiasms for seventy-five), surging ahead a little by 
                  weaving between lanes but still

staying	pretty much even, so too the seeker in language 
      ranges ahead and behind--exiting and rejoining
a rushing multitude so closely linked that,
                  if seen from above, from the height

of the jet now descending, we present one 
      stasis of lights: feeling our freedom though
when seen from above, in the deepening twilight, 
                  the pattern we bead is constant.

So we have traveled in time, lying down and waking 
      together, moved illusions, each cubicle with
tables and chairs, beds where our cries arose 
                  lost in the surging engines.

Yet the	roomlight where we made our love 
      still cubes us in amber. Out of the averaging
likeness, Pavlovian salivation at the bell
                  of a nipple, our lives extract their

time-thread, our gospel-truth. While Holiday 
      Inn and Exxon populate the stretch
between Washington and Richmond with lights, 
                  I rewrite our pasts in this present:

recalling your waking, dear wife, to find
      a nipple rosier, we not yet thinking a child
though impossibly guessing her features
                  the feathery, minutely combed lashes

the tiny perfect nails, though not yet
      the many later trees at Christmas. Now
I know only backwardly, inscribing these sign-
                  ings that fade as the ink dries.

Remembering the graphlike beading of darkness,
      I recall the ways that time once gave us-- 
distracted by signs for meals and clothing,
                  travelers, heavy with ourselves

defining the gift that bodies carry,
      lighting the one, inner room, womb for
our daughter. Seeing from above, I read
                  this love our child embodies.

From Quartet for Three Voices by James Applewhite. Copyright © 2002 by James Applewhite. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

From Quartet for Three Voices by James Applewhite. Copyright © 2002 by James Applewhite. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

James Applewhite

James Applewhite is the author of many poetry collections, most recently Time Beginnings (LSU Press, 2017). 

by this poet

poem

I wake to see a cardinal in our white
          crape myrtle. My eye aches. Bees celebrate
morning come with their dynamo-hum
                    around a froth of bloom.

Though presently it’s paradise for the bees,
          noon will reach ninety-nine degrees.
Le vierge, le