by Charles Entrekin
130 pages, retail price $17.00
Nominated for the 2020 PEN America Book Award PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection
This is what truly great writers – the great journalists, novelists, poets, playwrights – always do: They know their communities from the inside out, as full members, and they tell the truth about what they know. This collection of poems is a memoir about Alabama that transcends but does not neglect the public ugliness, the "tired old men who've made up their minds" and set against everything "young and swift." It is a family story filled with love, tenderness and forgiveness, that rises above the noise and into the mind and soul, evoking another landscape, both of feeling and place.
In What Remains, poet Charles Entrekin pares his life back to a profound moral core that balances between judgment and acceptance. If there is a Zen in Americana, this is it.
– Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Author of Navigating the Divide (Alan Squire Publishing, 2020) and The Hand of Buddha (Coffee House Press, 2000)
Charles Entrekin was born in 1941 in Birmingham, Alabama. He took his B.A. in English from Birmingham Southern College in 1964. He left Birmingham in 1965 and lived in various states (New York, Tennessee, Alabama, and Montana) while pursuing advanced degrees in philosophy and creative writing. Charles Entrekin holds an MFA in Creative Writing and founded the Creative Writing department at John F. Kennedy University and the Berkeley Poets Workshop & Press. Currently he is editor of the e-zine Sisyphus, a magazine of literature, philosophy and culture, and managing editor of Hip Pocket Press. Charles is the author of six previous books of poetry: The Art of Healing, with Gail Entrekin, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2016); Listening: New & Selected Work, (Poetic Matrix Press, 2010); This Hour, (BPW&P, 1990); Casting for the Cutthroat & Other Poems, (BPW&P, 1986); Casting for the Cutthroat, (Thunder City Press, 1978); All Pieces of a Legacy, (BPW&P, 1975). Charles' novel, Red Mountain: Birmingham, Alabama, 1965, was published in May, 2008, by El Leon Literary Arts.
What Remains by Charles Entrekin
Roots in Clay County, Alabama,
sticking out of the ground
like hard old men who’ve made up their minds,
set their grip hard against everything
young and swift.
When I walk out across this piece of earth
all covered over with honeysuckle and weeds,
the ground seems to suck at my feet
as though it were alive
and needed me
holding soil in place,
replacing stumps falling into rot.
Once the sky was blue, so blue
it seemed you could throw rocks into it
and they would not come to earth.
You would never be held accountable,
could run amok in the cornfields,
break the planned order,
run so far into your anger that dying
meant nothing, meant only a river,
a flood always leaving the land
richer for its coming.
It was your age of seasons,
nothing but being young, when everything
had its own place, could come and go
to return like the seasons;
and you could fall through space
as on a cardboard ride down,
before the highways were made,
before the day your dog tried to cross
and you continued on, unable to stop
seeing things break that could not be replaced.
In the absence of seasons
healing happens all at once,
like a flowering no one sees,
like a plant that blooms only once
in the desert at midnight under moonlight,
and you are kneeling in the midst of kisses
where the pale arms of a lover heal all wounds.
A Day’s Work
For so little pay
to move all day with that weight
slung backwards, and watch the dust
cover my hands like a new skin,
to stagger behind a black man who pulls
forward like a horse in harness,
so much power in his arms and back,
to lift that white substance from the plant,
that feeling of the seeds stuck in the center,
to stuff cotton balls in one smooth motion
without breaking stride
‘til it’s sundown beside the oak
beneath a red-varnished sky,
and an old man plopped down beside me,
wiping his eyes, face dust brown as mine,
saying, Damn wind done made me cry.
for Charles Edward Entrekin, Sr. (1919-2006)
I sail over the causeway
flying across water and time
through the scent of salt sea air
past sand dunes and sea oats
to the bright white driveway
of my father’s last house.
Inside is a Formica table,
an old oak chair.
Across its solid bent back
hangs a faded work shirt,
red and black plaid,
the shirt he wore in the garden
of string beans, okra and elephant ears.
In time, when I try it on,
the shirt comes apart in tatters.
I will bury it under the pine duff
next to my azaleas.
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