James Applewhite’s ’s poetry has been published in journals such as Poetry Magazine, Southern Poetry Review, North American Review and The Atlantic Monthly. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including the award-winning Daytime and Starlight and A Diary of Altered Light. His latest book, Selected Poems, was published in 2005 by Duke Press. A recipient of the North Carolina Award in Literature, Applewhite was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2008. He is now Emeritus Professor at Duke University.
Faces on Waking
Dogwoods blossomed petal leaves,
marked as with the nails of Christ—
consoling the child in us that grieves
for every moment lost.
Our grandson growing quickly tall
hurt our hearts with delight and dread.
I read him rhymes or a fairy tale
or The Cat in the Hat in bed.
I dream their faces, sleepy lover
of children’s lashes that asterisk eyes
to punctuate days, before they alter
their pure blue of surprise.
The shape of childhood’s whisper-wishing
hurts us with its changing dream
of toy boats, crayfish, stream-exploring—
the season’s uncanny poem.
These petals of dogwoods, really leaves,
remind us of the palms of Christ.
Time solaces, deceives, and gives
confusing first and last.
Time hurts us with a tale of days,
a story over as we discover
how lightning flashes to represent always,
like the face of a final lover.
The shape of time is a sonata-snake,
a beginning, middle, and ending thing
that slithers through, as we half awake
to this Judas music of spring.