Three Poems by Paul Piatkowski


The swampy tangles of the islands
wrap up houses, trees,
cars on the streets.
The angel oak tree
outside of Charleston
spreads rhizomorph-like
and branch
to branch
seems strangely disconnected
only to show sudden connection
from one huge clump
to the other.

Margot had just learned to walk,
so it was more of a stumble, a bumble,
a tumble at times.
We had
spent the day swimming,
grains of sand hidden
in crevices of our bodies that only we
and our most intimate
or invasive
had ever explored.

Sacred trees are not rare,
though they have become sparser,
and this one – sailing so brokenly
on wafts of thick,
salty air,
has a strong pull. Perhaps
there is metal flowing in it
just as our blood
clots with metallic chunks,
elements stitched into us
from the earth below.
Magnets buried deep
in the sinews.

Like some great
maypole, we circled it – husband, wife,
child. Locked chains,
little and big hands.

Pointing above, little Margot could see
the tree bowels breaking
with the logic of gravity. Reaching up
and grasping at the gods. The small
steps of a child
like a christening or rite
by the holy tree. And the guard had to usher
us away, lost as we were
in the oak’s boughs.

Navigating the Sound

Propeller quick
slash across the water surface,
it is the Ouroboros
I see, knifing
the waterways
towards Buxton,
meeting its serpent tail
weaving through
these channels.

Paddling along, chopping
with my oar,
I pass him, I pass
piers ornately crafted,
housing totems
shaped by
the rise and fall
of the tide. Growing
generations old,
most of this
was underwater
last year
just as five years before
when the storms last hit.

And like an idle king,
among these barren crags,

I push off,
a Viking burial,
seeking transcendence,
drifting back
lying in my skiff.
Again that strength
that moved heaven and earth

fades away with the dusk,
and the open sea opens
before me,
forcing me to beat at the current
only to be
borne ceaselessly back
into the past
, until
I die and am
reborn again at dawn.

Age of Iron

a poem for Sarah

Pure iron, they say, is soft,
softer than aluminum,
and its hardness comes
from the impurities
from the smelting process.

Heat does that, sometimes,
that fusing of elements,
that fusing of bodies. We
are six years in, and
by most appearances I know
we seem weathered and able,

hard and tough in the elements,
but I also know that deep,
deep in our cores, we remain
soft and sensitive
to the changes of the season,
their beauties and their frosts.

So we keep wrapping our arms
around one another,
protecting our tenderness
and catching the shrapnel
as it discharges, aimed
at our fringes. Your arms raised

protecting me, mine in the air
protecting you.

PaulPPaul Piatkowski teaches English at Forsyth Tech Community College in Winston Salem, North Carolina. His work has appeared in journals like Florida English, Naugatuck River Review, Stillwater Review, Aries, U.S. 1 Worksheets, 2 River View, Lines + Stars, and Fast Forward.