On Reading James Agee to My Students on Highland Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee (For Robert Coles)

Without a nod you give yourself to us
Where hedges grew and trolleys screeched on track
and you once played without a trace of fuss
the swollen games of children back to back.

A hump-backed sidewalk stretches at the seams.
Here once James Agee woke from awkward sleep
to find a father lost in all but dreams,
no more to hear the sound of crickets’ peep.

A coughing truck drowns out my elegy.
We watch until we’re sure it’s out of sight.
Steep faces fold at all that’s left to see
of limbs whose touch is ever more than light.

In corridors of feet just passing through
we hum the troubled love that’s left of you.

 

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