David B. Prather

David B. Prather
is the author of We Were birds from Main Street Rag Publishing.  His work has appeared in many print and online journals, including Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, Poet Lore, Seneca Review, The Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Sheila-Na-Gig, Gyroscope Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, and many others.  He studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York, and he studied writing at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.  He lives in Parkersburg, WV.

Journal Entry: All I Talk About is the Weather

It rained last night, fifteen minutes
                         after I crossed the threshold, which is
something I seem to be doing all the time.

For instance, the weather.  I’ve reached
                         the age when my body predicts
precipitation.  Except now, a failure

in my bones.  Lately, I’ve been keeping
                         an eye on the ceiling, that shadow
spot above the bed where storms force

their way in.  I’ve tried to fix the problem
                         twice.  I start watching that Edward
Robinson movie, Our Vines Have Tender

Grapes, that scene where the two kids
                         play “boat” in a tin bathtub, end up
swept away by flood waters, saved

when stopped by a bridge.  I always get
                         teary-eyed when Robinson scolds
then grabs his daughter tight.  I blame it

on a lack of affection, the past untouched.
                         The street out front fills with runoff.
I wonder why no one makes paper boats

anymore.  Surely, the streams that edge
                         and cut through town begin to rush.
Years ago, my grandfather left a few catfish

in a cage tied off in Standing Stone
                         Creek.  Crawdads found them and
tore them apart, trapped, as they were,

vulnerable to the hunger of others. I’ve heard
                         Robinson named already accused people
as Communists to try to save his own career.

I wonder if his father ever hugged him as fiercely
                         as he did Margaret O’Brien in that movie.
I can’t say I know what that feels like.

Journal Entry: Desire

Feral felines have their kittens hidden
under the neighbor’s ramshackle shed,

in the thicket of untrimmed berry vines.
They’ve been thinning out the arias

of songbirds.  I know who I love.  I fear
when birds are gone, I will no longer

desire updrafts and altitude.  What happens
to predators when there is nothing to hunt?

Haunches shift in overgrown weeds.
Eyes focus, unblinking.  My lover falls

victim to Eros, that vengeful god, who unfurls
his wings to reveal himself irresistible.

How softly the goddess purrs.  Her children
suckle, but crave the blood.  The end

must be like this, with gods eating grapes and
pomegranates, sitting near a waterfall,

where all else goes unheard.  My love
sleeps beside me.  This is as close as we get

to safe.  My eyes are hunters.  A bird
I can’t identify arrows and feathers the sky.

I am a wasted target.  Another bird sings.
I should be able to name it, but I can’t.

I can’t even imagine the words.  A cat stalks,
climbs, claws.  I must be a long-bodied

carnivore, hungry for all those
winged creatures, ravenous for angels.

I know how swift they can be.

I Would Never (Kill My Neighbor’s Dog)

the way my father took my childhood

                                                                               pet into the woods, his rifle barrel down

and hanging from the crook of his arm.

                                                                            I heard (the echo of) the shot, and I knew

I was gone, (a boy) crying on a porch,

                                                                                   waiting for my father to come walking

through the trees back to this place

                                                                                   we called (home).  The neighbor’s dog

barked at the gunfire.  It was September,

                                                                               right at the beginning of squirrel season,

when my father would (teach me how)

                                                                                          to hunt, how to carry a gun safely,

how (to be patient) for prey to come out

                                                                                  of hiding.  I once killed (a snake)

with a strike to the head.  It’s body

                                                                                        coiled, (a spasm) through the rocks

at the edge of a slow-running stream.

                                                                                The stock, the barrel, the bullet.

Power feels good (when you hold it),

                                                                                          aim it, squeeze the trigger.

I will never do that again.

Narcissism

Caught by this river,
                           I lean out.  I think
of my lover drowning.
                           How deeply must I plummet
to find bottom, twig
                           and leaf, rock and mud?

_____

My face is in the water.
                           There must be a breeze
that ripples fear.  I think
                           of my lover drowning.
Upriver, a bridge
                           mocks its own reflection.

_____

How many of us have
                           fallen or leaped?  Even
the swirl and flow
                           has no memory.  And I think
of my lover drowning.
                           I, too,

_____

have had fluid fill my lungs.
                           Somehow, I broke
the surface.  People ask
                           how I can love the water
this much.  I tell them

_____

this is the last place
                           I was alive.  I think
of my lover drowning.
                           Downstream, an island
pushes against the flow.
                           Tree roots claw

_____

at whatever might save them.
                           I’ve seen the struggle
of savior and sacrifice.
                           I’ve seen them go under
until it was impossible
                           to return.  I think

_____

of holding my lover,
                           water still dripping
from his brow, across
                           his face.

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