Hard to imagine that no one counts,
that only things endure.
Unlike the seasons, our shirts don't shed,
Whatever we see does not see us,
however hard we look,
The rain in its silver earrings against the oak trunks,
The rain in its second ...

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Scar Tissue

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Hard to imagine that no one counts,
that only things endure.
Unlike the seasons, our shirts don't shed,
Whatever we see does not see us,
however hard we look,
The rain in its silver earrings against the oak trunks,
The rain in its second skin.
--from "Scar Tissue II"

In his new collection, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Wright investigates the tenuous relationship between description and actuality--"thing is not an image"--but also reaffirms the project of attempting to describe, to capture the natural world and the beings in it, although he reminds us that landscape is not his subject matter but his technique: that language was always his subject--language and "the ghost of god." And in the dolomites, the clouds, stars, wind, and water that populate these poems, "something un-ordinary persists."

Scar Tissue is a groundbreaking work from a poet who "illuminates and exalts the entire astonishing spectrum of existence" (Booklist).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The phrasemaking lyricism of this 17th volume plays to Wright's familiar strengths: 42 long-lined poems mix calm, Taoist-inflected wisdom with lush descriptions of landscapes in Italy, North Carolina (where he grew up) and Virginia's Blue Ridge country (where he now lives). "There is no end to the other world," Wright announces, "no matter where it is," and that other world shimmers and glows amid this one: "Wet days are their own reward for now,/ litter's lapse and the pebble's gleam." Wright sounds by turns learned and folksy: Chinese classical poets continue to give Wright models and precedents, while Kafka's parable of the hunter Gracchus (who travels the world in his coffin) provides a darker undertone. Ischia, Rome and Florence compete with southern roads in Wright's scenery, where "Whatever is insignificant has its own strength." The title sequence concentrates on nostalgia, "Lost loves and the love of loss," trying to find a deeper appreciation both of the historical past and of the poet's childhood memories. Wright makes a slight departure from his recent books in the valedictory, even triumphant, feel of this one: long content to chronicle flux and presence, Wright looks these days to the future, in which the world and its beauty outlast us. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A restless spirituality haunts this latest outing from Pulitzer Prize winner Wright (Black Zodiac), a collection of meditations that question "the Heracletian backwash" of memory, the relative significance (if any) of human presence in the universe, and our Romantic nostalgia for the sunlit and moonlit landscapes that "ignite us into a false love for the physical world." It's not the world itself, Wright hints, but our imaginative recasting of it, in language or in art, that inspires us. Though his poems evoke an aura of Zen calm, a fascination with paradox and ambiguity suggesting a perspective poised just outside of time, they are Western at the core, proactive, willing to be distracted, unsatisfied with their own open-ended conclusions. If the spirit "is looking for somewhere to dissipate," its search may well be ceaseless. A "God-fearing agnostic," Wright recognizes our "desperation for unknown things, a thirst/ For endlessness that snakes through our bones...." Though Wright's longtime readers will find familiar territory here, they may also detect a sharper tone, as the poet, now 70, confronts mortality with renewed urgency. Recommended for most public and academic collections. Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for Buffalo Yoga:

"Challenging, companionable, [and] rewarding. It would be difficult these days to find a book that comes close to it in energy or engagement." -Richard Rand, The Harvard Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781466877436
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/29/2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 88
  • Sales rank: 1,069,498
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Charles Wright, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the National Book Award, teaches at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Charles Wright is the United States Poet Laureate. His poetry collections include Country Music, Black Zodiac, Chickamauga, Bye-and-Bye: Selected Later Poems, Sestets, and Caribou. He is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the National Book Award, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the 2013 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. Born in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee in 1935, he currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Read an Excerpt


Appalachian Farewell

Sunset in Appalachia, bituminous bulwark

Against the western skydrop.

An Advent of gold and green, an Easter of ashes.

If night is our last address,

This is the place we moved from,

Backs on fire, our futures hard-edged and sure to arrive.

These are the towns our lives abandoned,

Wind in our faces,

The idea of incident like a box beside us on the Trailways seat.

And where were we headed for? The country of Narrative, that dark territory

Which spells out our stories in sentences, which gives them an end

and beginning . . .

Goddess of Bad Roads and Inclement Weather, take down

Our names, remember us in the drip

And thaw of the wintry mix, remember us when the light cools.

Help us never to get above our raising, help us

To hold hard to what was there,

Orebank and Reedy Creek, Surgoinsville down the line.

Last Supper

I seem to have come to the end of something, but don’t know what, Full moon blood orange just over the top of the redbud tree. Maudy Thursday tomorrow,

Then Good Friday, then Easter in full drag, Dogwood blossoms like little crosses All down the street,

lilies and jonquils bowing their mitred heads.

Perhaps it’s a sentimentality about such fey things, But I don’t think so. One knows There is no end to the other world,

no matter where it is. In the event, a reliquary evening for sure, The bones in their tiny boxes, rosettes under glass.

Or maybe it’s just the way the snow fell

a couple of days ago, So white on the white snowdrops. As our fathers were bold to tell us,

it’s either eat or be eaten. Spring in its starched bib, Winter’s cutlery in its hands. Cold grace. Slice and fork.

Inland Sea

Little windows of gold paste,

Long arm of the Archer high above.

Cross after cross on the lawn. Dry dreams. Leftover light.

Bitter the waters of memory,

Bitter their teeth and cold lips.

Better to stuff your heart with dead moss,

Better to empty your mouth of air

Remembering Babylon

Than to watch those waters rise

And fall, and to hear their suck and sigh.

Nostalgia arrives like a spring storm, Looming and large with fine flash, Dissolving like a disease then

into the furred horizon, Whose waters have many doors, Whose sky has a thousand panes of glass.

Nighttime still dogs and woos us With tiny hiccups and tiny steps, The constellations ignore our moans, The tulip flames

snuffed in their dark cups, No cries of holy, holy, holy.

Little windows of gold paste,

Long arm of the Archer high above.

Cross after cross on the lawn. Dry dreams. Leftover light.

Bitter the waters of memory,

Bitter their teeth and cold lips.

The Silent Generation II

We’ve told our story. We told it twice and took our lumps. You’ll find us here, of course, at the end of the last page, Our signatures scratched in smoke.

Thunderstorms light us and roll on by.

Branches bend in the May wind,

But don’t snap, the flowers bend and do snap, the grass gorps.

And then the unaltered grey,

Uncymbaled, undrumrolled, no notes to set the feet to music.

Still, we pull it up to our chins; it becomes our lives.

Garrulous, word-haunted, senescent,

Who knew we had so much to say, or tongue to say it?

The wind, I guess, who’s heard it before, and crumples our pages.

And so we keep on, stiff lip, slack lip,

Hoping for words that are not impermanent—small words,

Out of the wind and the weather—that will not belie our names.

High Country Canticle

The shroud has no pockets, the northern Italians say. Let go, live your life,

the grave has no sunny corners— Deadfall and windfall, the aphoristic undertow Of high water, deep snow in the hills, Everything’s benediction, bright wingrush of grace.

Spring moves through the late May heat

as though someone were poling it.

The Wrong End of the Rainbow

It must have been Ischia, Forio d’Ischia.

Or Rome. The Pensione Margutta. Or Naples

Somewhere, on some dark side street in 1959

With What’s-Her-Name, dear golden-haired What’s-Her-Name.

Or Yes-Of-Course In Florence, in back of S. Maria Novella, And later wherever the Carabinieri let us lurk.

Milano, with That’s-The-One, two streets from the Bar Giamaica. Venice and Come-On-Back,

three flights up, Canal as black as an onyx, and twice as ground down.

Look, we were young then, and the world would sway to our sway.

We were riverrun, we were hawk’s breath.

Heart’s lid, we were center’s heat at the center of things.

Remember us as we were, amigo,

And not as we are, stretched out at the wrong end of the rainbow,

Our feet in the clouds,

our heads in the small, still pulse-pause of age,

Gazing out of some window, still taking it all in,

Our arms around Memory,

Her full lips telling us just those things

she thinks we want to hear.

A Field Guide to the Birds of the Upper Yaak

A misty rain, no wind from the west, Clouds close as smoke to the ground,

spring’s fire, like a first love, now gone to ash, The lives of angels beginning to end like porch lights turned off From time zone to time zone,

our pictures still crooked on the walls, Our prayer, like a Chinese emperor, always two lips away, Our pockets gone dry and soft with lint. Montana morning, a cold front ready to lay its ears back.

If I were a T’ang poet, someone would bid farewell At this point, or pluck a lute string,

or knock on a hermit’s door. I’m not, and there’s no one here. The iconostasis of evergreens across the two creeks Stands dark, unkissed and ungazed upon.

Tonight, it’s true, the River of Heaven will cast its net of strung stars, But that’s just the usual stuff.

As I say, there’s no one here.

In fact, there’s almost never another soul around. There are no secret lives up here,

it turns out, everything goes Its own way, its only way, Out in the open, unexamined, unput upon. The great blue heron unfolds like a pterodactyl Over the upper pond,

two robins roust a magpie, Snipe snipe, the swallows wheel, and nobody gives a damn.

Excerpted from Scar Tissue by Charles Wright.
Copyright 2006 by Charles Wright.
Published in 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

Appalachian farewell 3
Last supper 4
Inland sea 5
The silent generation II 7
High country canticle 8
The wrong end of the rainbow 9
A field guide to the birds of the upper Yaak 10
A short history of my life 11
Waking up after the storm 13
Images from the kingdom of things 14
Confessions of a song and dance man 15
Against the American grain 18
College days 19
Night thoughts under a China moon 21
Bedtime story 22
Transparencies 23
Morning occurrence at Xanadu 25
Saturday morning satori 26
Wrong notes 27
The minor art of self-defense 29
Scar tissue 33
Scar tissue II 40
Appalachia dog 49
Get a job 50
Archaeology 51
The sodbuster's saloon and hall of fame 52
Heraclitean backwash 53
High country spring 54
China traces 55
Matins 56
North 57
In praise of Franz Kafka 58
Vespers 59
The narrow road to the distant city 60
Pilgrim's progress 61
Little landscape 62
Ghost days 63
The silent generation III 64
Time will tell 66
Hawksbane 67
The woodpecker peeks, but the hole does not appear 68
Singing lesson 69
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